Skip to main content

Full text of "Dominican monastic search"

See other formats

"...aeefe the. loud. tjouA God; and you 
hWJL indzzd &lnd hum tvkan you SEARCH 
a^tQA him with youA whalo. hwxt..." 

(Vziit. 4:29) 


M N A S T I C 




Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

CARLI: Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois 

osc avto nu 

no n\ 


1Q, <tn 
for w Jwcr m&i 


ave recourse 

"to m 

i *mot 


cf wkortA, rasters 

St Albarf "fcfc* <Srua+ 





Jesus, Model and Teacher of Prayer in the Gospels 11 

Sister Mary of the Immaculate Conception (West Springfield) 

The Inner Mountain 14 

Sister Miriam (Elmira) 

The Prayer of St. Dominic and of the Early Dominicans 20 

Sister Mary Martin (Summit) 

The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic 31 

Novitiate (Lufkin) 

The "Naked Spirit" in Eckhart's 'Counsels of Discernment 1 44 

Sister Mary Francis (Farmington) 

Contemplation in our Modern Times 55 

Sister Mary Roseanne (Lufkin) 

The Prayer of Intercession 61 

Sister Marie of the Incarnation (Newark) 

Prayer as Relationship: God and the Self 67 

Sister Mary of the Annunciation (Lufkin) 

Dominican Common Prayer - Nuns 87 

Sister Mary of God (North Guilford) 

St. Dominic and His Love for the Liturgy 90 

Sister Mary Margaret (Elmira) 

The "0 Lumen" in Portraiture 93 

Sister Mary of the Precious Blood (Buffalo) 

A Brief Reflection on the "Adoro Te Devote" 95 

Sister Maria Rose of the Resurrection (Summit) 

The Charism of St. Dominic and the Dominican Order: A Spiritual Reflection . . 101 
Sister Mary Rose Dominic of Jesus (Summit) 

Historical Background of St. Dominic's Life and of the Foundation of the Order 106 
Sister Mary Stephen (Elmira) 

Grateful Memories of an Enduring Presence 123 

Sister Mary Jeremiah (Lufkin) 

A Distinctive Identity: Dominican Contemplative Nuns 125 

Sister Marie of the Incarnation (Newark) 

An Expression of our Identity in our Revised Constitutions , 129 

Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart (Lufkin) 

Dominican Monastic Profession 132 

Sister Claire (North Guilford) 

Origin of Dominican Coat of Arms 136 

Translated by Sister Mary Louis Bertrand (West Springfield) 

Look to the Rock from which You Were Hewn 137 

Sister Dominic Marie of Jesus (Buffalo) 

Silence: A Monastic Tradition for Today 143 

A Nun of Summit 

The Impact of Modern Culture on Monasticism 151 

Sister Frances Clare (Bronx) 

Sainte Baume and Devotion to St. Mary Magdalen in the Dominican Order .... 159 
Sister Mary John (Farmington) 

The Homemaker 162 

Sister Mary Amata (Buffalo) 

An Introduction to the Study of Icons 163 

Sister Mary Dominic and Sister Mary Elizabeth (Newark) 

Father Hyacinth-Marie Cormier, O.P 168 

Translated by Sister Mary Regina (West Springfield) 

The Tale of the Wood 179 

Sister Violet Ann (Syracuse) 

pvtQidenfk ftttj& 

There is a song or phrase I cannot fully recall 
which goes something like "Love in search of a word." I 
often think that an even better way of saying this might 
be "Truth in search of a word" . As Dominicans we are de- 
dicated to the pursuit of truth through our meditation and 
study and prayer. How often we feel we have grasped some 
new insight into the reality of life and we struggle to 
find just the right word in which to express it so we can 
share it with others! 

This is part of the reason for our latest venture 
which comes to you as Monastic Search . As you know from 
the first issue put out by our North Guilford Monastery 
several years ago, the purpose is to offer the opportu- 
nity for distributing longer articles and studies written 
by our sisters among all our English speaking monasteries. 
Although most of us are not professionals, or even highly 
educated, there are aspects of truth that have meaning to 
us within our own particular charism and life style which 
only we can express. Like Albert and Thomas and Catherine 
and so many of our Dominican brothers and sisters, past 
and present, we spend our lives trying to grow in love and 
knowledge of the Word and to hear it spoken ever more clear- 
ly within us. Some have a gift for putting this into wri- 
ting. Let us encourage one another to convey our glimpses 
of truth into printed "words" that all can read and enjoy! 

^^2W^v?aA-v- ^-^^bsUsTuy or. 



'GMovioi G^mmcnQ 


As we all know, 6tudy oriented to a ll^e oh prayer is a basic element In 
our Dominican contemplative llhe. No one better exempllhled this than our own 
St. Albert the Great who 6 2. fi&ut we celebrate tlvLs month. His scholarly pursuits 
took many d-Oi2.cXA.oni> bat at the heart oh them all was his intense and loving 
search hor God. In tills respect W2 do well to imitate, him in oar own studies 
and in qua. sharing the fan.aitA oh ooa knowledge and rehlectlon with one another. 

DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH came into ex-istence in 1980. It grew oat oh a 
spontaneous desire oh the nuns oh the United States to share with one anothen. 
mofte extensively and at a deepeA level than was possible within the limits oh 
CONFERENCE COMMUNICATIONS as it oAiginated. The coven, oh the inaugural edition 
oh DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH states: "This -issae OAiginated in the papers which 
coald not be incladed in CONFERENCE COMMUNICATIONS.' 1 It was a happy Inspiration, 
an ohh shoot oh the pan.ent pabtication. Since that hi^t edition there have 
been many requests h on - a continuation oh such a pabtication. We shall endeavoA 
to do this in whateveA way the nans express the,ir wishes. Ahten. a peAusal oh 
tiiis pAesent edition you may ^ee£ in a more inhormed position to be able to do 
that. We need to know yoan thoughts on this h oh ~ ike f)(xtuAe! 

The papeAS contained in this issue are many and varied. The theme oh 
"prayer" is continued the February, 1983 combined issae. Bat theAe are 
papeAS on many otheA topics besides . At tills point, as h a/L &t> possible, we one 
tnylng to Include eveAything submitted to as. Ih you ^ee£ that a rehlnlng on. 
naAAowlng down is needed in the ho^oAe, we shall be glad to know. For the 
present, we hope you will hind the dlvenslty rehreshing. Ooa contAlbutons have 
given as a dellghthul vaAlety oat oh the storehouse oh theln own research and 
InteAests stimulated by theln. love oh God and oh all things Dominican. 

We should like to add here a word oh explanation and a ^eu; simple directives. 
The hinal pnlntlng oh all the issues since the West Spring hleld meeting \vxs 
actually been a xeAoxed process. This has been done locally at a very reasonable 
pAlce. Fon. this we need clean manuscAlpts because copies o\ copies do not turn 
oat very well. So we would ask that you do not send as carbon copies, xeroxed or 
photo copies oh any kind bat only originals oh your papers. Ih requested, we can 
return them to you later. To re-type all the. materljxls sent to as -is simply Im- 
possible tlmewlse. Occasionally it is necessary, but as h ^ °u> possible editing 
and corrections are pasted on to the copies sent to as. From the point oh view 
oh both time and expense oar publications cannot be too pro hesslonally done. But 
we, fieel that the Important thing is oar sharing with one anotheA, and that sharing 
has been geneAoas and sincere, and In that respect oar project has Indeed been 
success hat. T he h^^^ess oh the present edition testicles to that. 

Our next issue oh CONFERENCE COMMUNICATIONS lb dae In late Febraary or early 
March, 1984. It will be an important issae by way oh preparing hor the General 
Assembly next Jane. The topic hor the Open Forum will be announced witliin a 
short time and will be related to that oh the Assembly. Contributions h 0/t this 
Issue will be dae by January 28th; bat the sooner we receive them, the better'. 
Please send all News Reports, Want- Ads and Annoancements h 0>mQ tily sent to Sr. 
Mary Paul In LaCrosse, to the Elmira Monastery hor the present. 

Thanks to all 0^ oar supporteAt and contributors who continue to shed light 
along the pathways oh oar search hor God In Dominican llhe a 

The Editorial Board 


Every Christian should be drawn to the excellence of prayer and its meaning 
in our lives by the simple reading of Sacred Scripture. The gospels, especially, 

are the source par excellence of the doctrine of prayer. Through them we are made 

J 2 3 

aware of the need for it, the dispositions necessary, of how we should pray, 

4 5 

for what and how often. 

Jesus, Himself, gave to His teaching the example of His conduct. He prayed 

6 7 

alone on the mountain, with His people in the synagogue, at meals with his 

8 9 

disciples, before important decisions and undertakings. Many and varied are 

His words and example to stimulate the practice of prayer and to encourage Divine 
Intimacy in the hearts of all His followers, however close or remote their relation- 
ship to Him might be. 

In our monastic search for prayer, it is Jesus and His gospel that claims 
first place in our instruction, as it did for the desert fathers. 

Evagrius Ponticus begins the first counsel of his Praktikos with his tribute 


to Christ's gospel. His Chapters on Prayer are intended to be used, hand in hand, 

with the Evangelical teachings. 

In the pursuit of pure prayer, what doctrine could surpass the teaching of 
Jesus in the parable of the ten virgins? 

"The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to ten virgins who took 
their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish 
and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps they took no 
oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the 
bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight 
there was a cry: 'Behold the Bridegroom! Come out to meet Him' Then all 
those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish said to the 
wise: 'Give us some of your oil for our lamps are going out.' But the 
wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go 
rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves. ' And while they went to 
buy, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went in with him to the 
marriage feast and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came 
also saying — 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to 
you, I do not know you.' Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day 


nor the hour . 

Christ places before us by means of images the requirements of imageless 
prayer and the gift of contemplation. In right order and masterly fashion, He 
sets forth the basics of this prayer — the virgin soul — faith, hope and charity-- 
and the discipline of asceticism. 

The virgins are ten — five foolish and five wise; or, if you will, five unskilled 
and five well purified. 

Christ tells us that our pursuit of God in prayer is a journey. The length 
of it cannot be predetermined, "for no one knows the day nor the hour" of His 
coming. He forewarns us of the hardship, the uncertainty, the darkness, and He 
entrusts us with one only task — PREPAREDNESS . He asks for nothing more. He 
prophesies that some will sleep, others will slumber until a mid-term point is 
reached, where a second call will be heard, summoning them forward for the last 
phase of the journey to the Supreme Encounter. 

Here, Jesus unfolds the secret of the Kingdom. 

The call is heard by all the virgins, but five had not the means to finish 
the journey. These are advised to retrace their steps and "buy from the dealers" 
so that, perhaps, they might complete their course. 

But upon their return the door of Intimacy remains closed to them and Christ 
is compelled to answer, "I do not know you." For truly, in the realm of pure prayer 
there is no borrowed light, nor are there forced entries. It is only the Bridegroom 
who can give entrance into His Presence. The oil that sustains our lamps must be 
supplied from the labor of our own hands, and for this oil we must be ready and 
willing to pay the full price. 

Sister Mary of the Immaculate Conception 

West Springfield 


Foo tno t e s 

1. Mk. 14: 32 

2. Mk. 11: 25; Lk. 18: 10 

3. Mt. 6: 5-7 

4. Mt. 6: 9-13 

5. Lk. 18: 1-8 

6. Mt. 14: 23 

7. Lk. 4: 16 

8. Mk. 14: 26 

9. Lk. 6: 12-13 

10. J. E. Bamberger, Evagrius Ponticus , Praktikos and Chapters on Prayer, Cist, 
Studies Series, Nbr. 4, 1978. 

11. op. cit., Chapters on Prayer, pg. 54, footnote 11. 

12. Mt. 25: 1-13 



The image theme was a pivotal point in the development of the Greek Fathers' 
understanding of the spiritual life. Man was created according to the image of 
God and before the fall "had his mind fixed on God in a freedom unhindered by 
shame" (1). This likeness was lost, when, as St. Athanasius (c. 295-373) tells 
us, man turned from the contemplation of God to self: "Once mankind diverted its 
attention from heavenly concerns, then they began to devote attention to them- 
selves ... .with the result that at that moment they fell into bodily yearnings 
and to their shame, realized their nakedness - not so much that they were 
stripped of clothing as of the contemplation of the things of God. For they had 
transferred their attention to what was contrary to the things of God. As soon 
as they stopped longing for him, all that was left for them was to launch them- 
selves upon variety and upon the necessarily fragmentary desires of the body" (2). 

Through the Incarnation God has restored this lost relationship to the Divine, 
that through Christ men might once more know him and contemplate him: "For seeing 
that men, having rejected the contmplation of God, and with their eyes down-ward, 
as though sunk in the deep, were seeking about for God in nature and in the world 
of sense.... to this end the loving and general savior of all, the Word of God, 
takes to himself a body, and walks among men" (3). Ever since his coming it has 
been possible for men to recover their lost likeness to the Word if they would 
but consent and turn to him. In this does the spiritual life consist: the turning 
and letting go of all that would hinder or gravitate against this ascent. 

In the well known Life of Anthony St. Athanasius sets before us a model and 
classic pattern of one man's struggle and eventual victory gained in Christ 
against those subtle yet powerful yearnings and fragmentary desires which keep 
us from the vision of God. Initially called from the world by the Lord's voice 
heard in scripture: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give 
to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" (A), and progressively formed 
by the Word: "Do not be anxious about tomorrow" (5); he was moved to experience 
a deeper need for solitude which of itself demanded a more radical and comparable 
detachment from all that pertained to the gratification of self. Thus emerges the 
two-fold movement of the ascetic life: growth in self-knowledge through the sort- 
ing out and struggle with one's passions and continual watchfulness in prayer. 

The result was evident when after twenty years spent in a tomb battling the 
inner forces of his nature in fasts, vigils, prayer, and toil, Anthony left his 
solitude and came forth as "though from some shrine having been led into divine 
mysteries and inspired by God". The people were amazed at what they saw: "the 
state of his soul was one of purity.... he maintained utter equilibrium, like one 
guided by reason and steadfast in that which accords with nature" (6). Having 
first been healed himself and having tasted the wisdom of divine things, and been 
conformed to the likeness of Christ in compassion and purity of heart, he was 
then able to heal, instruct, reconcile, and gain new followers for God. Disciples 
began to multiply as the fame of his words and example spread. These he encour- 
aged to persevere in their ascetic endeavor of "dying daily" and urged them not 
to turn back, because "turning back is nothing except feeling regret and once 
more thinking about things of this world "; instead, they must: "set their hearts 
straight toward the Lord God of Israel", and preserve their "soul for the Lord, 
that he may recognize his work as being the same as when he made it." (7). 

Having come from the fragmentary and complex world of many things, having 
fought numberless battles with 'demons' of every name until fewer and fewer were 
able to wound him, he was now invited to a deeper union with God, and after a 
journey of "three days and three nights", he arrived at the "inner mountain" (8). 
For Anthony the "inner mountain" was the place of vision, where undisturbed 


he prayed with groanings which go beyond mere words. Having forsaken all things 
and placed his trust in God, he himself now became a mountain (9): his mind 
"unshaken and unruffled", his "soul stable and pure", free from confusion, he 
was "calm and joyous". Like Moses in the desert the efficacy of his prayer pro- 
duced a spring of water, and he healed others of their afflictions. Those who 
encounted him were amazed to see not some "wild old man reared on a mountain" (10) , 
but one who was "gracious, civil, his speech seasoned with divine salt" because he 
had been taught by God Himself. Impelled by his love of Christ and an apostolic 
zeal for His truth he journeyed back and forth to the "outer mountain" to preach 
against a rising heresy, to instruct, and counsel others to live according to the 
gospel (11) . 

This story of a man's return from the preoccupation with self to the "inner 
mountain" of the vision of God was to become the living foundation of the monastic 
and spiritual tradition which spread across the western world. Others would come 
later who having lived the tradition themselves would synthesize, clarify, expand 
and adapt it for the sake of other cultures, needs and times; but the journey to 
the "inner mountain" basically remained unchanged. 

In Spain some nine centuries after the life of Anthony another man would be 
nurtured and formed according to the truths of this tradition. St. Dominic Guzman 
(c. 1173-1221) in his early years led a rather solitary life in the cloister of 
his family circle, receiving his training from an archpriest uncle. Already we are 
told by Bl. Jordan of Saxony, his biographer, that he was given a "stable charac- 
ter", and walked in the "way of innocence, preserving his virginity for God" (12). 
He soon acquired a taste for God's word, not only by hearing it, but by practicing 
it (13) , and as a student in Palencia he was stricken at the plight of the poor 
dying of hunger. Moved by the same gospel counsel as that once heard by Anthony, 
he sold his books, painstakingly copied by hand on parchment, and gave the money 
to the poor thinking, "I will not study on dead skins when men are dying of hunger" 
(14). Hence, "while the man of God was planning his pilgrimage in his heart, and 
progressing from strength to strength, daily surpassing himself in goodness, as 
everyone could see, because his innocense of life shone out like a morning star.... 
everybody marveled at him and his fame reached the bishop of Osma" (15). 

It was through this man that Dominic was to enter upon the final phase of his 
training for the future for which God was preparing him. By joining the canons of 
Osma Dominic was to enter his own "inner mountain". We are told very little by 
biographers about the struggles related to his growth in virtue, but the final 
image of the man points to what must have gone before. We know only he was the 
"lowliest of them all in his humility of heart, but he was their leader in holi- 
ness" (16). 

The canon's life which Dominic embraced was traditionally considered a life of 
pure prayer. Principally it was a life of solitude, contemplation fed by the 
scriptures, the public recitation of the office in the cathedral and a common life 
founded upon an apostolic poverty (17). Here, able to savor the profound depths 
of God's mystery and love, "he haunted the Church by day and by night devoting 
himself ceaselessly to prayer. Claiming for himself the leisure for contemplation, 
he hardly ever showed himself outside the confines of the monastery" (18) . But 
this solitude and prayer in no way closed his heart to his neighbor's need anymore 
than it had Anthony; for "God had given him a special grace to weep for sinners 
and for the afflicted and oppressed; he bore their distress in the inmost shrine 
of his heart spilled over in the tears which flowed from his eyes" (19). 

The bridge in Dominic's formation between the canons of the 13th century and 
the monastic tradition of the desert was a book then popular in religious houses 


entitled the Conferences of the Fathers . Its author, John Cassian (c. 360-433), 
had lived in the Egyptian desert and had experienced for himself the wisdom and 
tried methods of the spiritual life which had been practiced and bequeathed by 
Anthony and the elders. Taking primarily the Evagrian synthesis culled from a 
generation of experience in asceticism and prayer he interpreted it, embellished 
it and provided a balanced ideal for the West to emulate. In this book, Dominic 
"strove to explore the ways of salvation and to follow them with all the power 
of his mind. With the help of grace, this book brought him to the highest purity 
of conscience and to considerable enlightenment in contemplation and to the 
veritable peak of perfection" (20) . 

Cassian well understood Athanasius' insight regarding man's fallen nature 
resulting in the mobility and instability of man's mind. Turned from God it wan- 
ders greedily after many things, seeding the desires of the heart (21). The 
renunciation and purification from our attachments to material things, sin, and 
all that is not God in our memory and desires is the remedy for this innate 
instability. He exhorts us: "Going forth in heart from this temporal and visible 
home, turn our eyes and hearts towards that in which we are to remain for ever.... 
proclaiming in deed, and action the truth of the saying of the Blessed Apostle, 
'Our conversation is in heaven! '"(22). Motivated by love (23) and with love as 
the goal the ascetic endeavor is only a means on the ladder of perfection. The 
principle tool in purifying and stilling the mind is rumination of scripture (24) 
and ceaseless prayer. But life and prayer form a unity; if one desires to feed 
on the continual contemplation of God then whatever occurs outside of prayer by 
way of action, thought, or desire which will dance before one's mind at prayer, 
must flow from a life of virtue (25). Excesses intoxicate the senses and carry 
one away from contemplation; we must "reject with firmness of mind whatever min- 
isters to our power" (26), for pure prayer flows from pure thoughts. As an aid 
to ceaseless prayer Cassian recommends a short prayer from the psalms which "em- 
braces all the feelings which can be implanted in human nature. ... and can be adapt- 
ed to every condition and temptation" (27) . Keeping to a broad perspective he 
explains four basic movements of prayer: supplication arising from one's experience 
and sorrow for sin, prayer occuring in fidelity to our promises and duties to God, 
intercession for the need of one's neighbor proceeding from a fervor of love, and 
thanksgiving born of a consideration of God's goodness. On occasion, a pure soul 
may gather together all of these at one time and "like some incomprehensible and 
all-devouring flame, dart through them all and offer up to God inexpressible prayer 
of the purest force, which the Spirit Itself, intervening with groanings that can- 
not be uttered "(28), ennobles. 

From what we know of Dominic's own life and prayer he indeed bore fruit from the 
instruction of these conferences which he studied with "all the power of his mind" 
(29). Here we find a man, as witnesses tell us, who stripped himself of self in 
a rule of poverty both regarding material possessions and inner ambitions, who 
avoided all useless conversation in favor of speaking only about God or to God, 
who mourned and wept for sinners throughout the night, and preached the truth to 
them by day, who dialogued with God over passages of scripture, who on his journeys 
sang hymns of praise for his gratuitous goodness, who, pointing like an arrow set 
straight on its course, allowed his spirit to ascend and contemplate mysteries 
reserved only for the pure of heart. Flowing forth from this source he burned with 
extraordinary zeal, he was steady of mind, compassionate of heart, and everywhere 
he showed himself to be a man of the gospel. Preoccupied with the necessities of 
administering his new Order, traveling and preaching, he nevertheless carried with- 
in him the 'inner mountain' of God; and like Anthony, he too became a mountain 
radiating the way to God exemplified in this tradition. 

Two followers of Dominic who saw the wisdom of this way and the wealth of the 


treasures hidden within were St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) and St. Catherine 
of Siena (c. 1347-1380) . A powerful and original thinker, Thomas showed clearly 
in his writings intellectual genius; nevertheless he too found nourishment in the 
monastic tradition of Cassian: "From this reading I reap devotion, and that makes 
it easier for me to lift myself up into speculation. So, the af f ectus , attachment 
to God, widens into devotion, and thanks to it the intellect ascends towards the 
highest summit" (30). William of Tocco tells us that Thomas read a few pages of 
the Conferences each day. This was for him a manual of the ascetic life and if he 
pondered the wisdom of these desert elders it was no doubt to follow their teach- 
ing and to imitate their example. What he found there was solitude, flight from 
the world, silence, fasting, ceaseless prayer, stability of mind and purity of 
heart directed toward the contemplation of God, all of which were applicable to 
such a temperament as his, whose quietude and inclination to study are legendary. 
Brother Reginald relates: "Each time Thomas wished to study, to hold a discussion, 
to teach, write or dictate, he had recourse first of all to private prayer. Fre- 
quently he shed tears before studying divine truths. If some doubt came to his 
soul, he interrupted his work to renew his prayer" (31). He seems to have been 
favored with a tenderness of the heart which expressed itself in tears, and he 
was often known, at the liturgy or when praying for a solution to some doctrinal 
question, to burst into a flood of tears. When writing the Summa , he hastened to 
the altar numberless times to ask Christ whether or not some question was in con- 
formity to the truth. He never began his work without first entering that 'inner 
mountain 1 of prayer to ask for enlightenment. Thus, cloistered within his intel- 
lectual world as in a 'Tomb', he savored deeply the things of God and in his 
speculations uncovered divine truths and translated them into immortal formulas. 
His work for posterity was first contemplated in the presence of God. Both his 
physical and intellectual asceticism, joined to constant prayer, prepared him for 
the mystical ascent to divine beauty. 

St. Catherine was quite the opposite from Thomas in temperament as well as in 
the lack of any formal schooling. And rather than quietude, we find a tireless 
conversationalist able to absorb and integrate the spoken word into a whole teach- 
ing drawn from the past as well as from the main current of thought in her own 
day. Her central teaching, in accord with the monastic tradition we have been 
pondering, was knowledge of self in God. This is not self introspection but a 
knowledge gained by looking at God who is the mirror in which we see ourselves. 
"In the gentle mirror of God she [the soul] sees her own dignity: that through no 
merit of hers but by his creation she is the image of God. And in the mirror of 
God's goodness she sees as well her own unworthiness , the work of her own sin"(32). 
Catherine put great emphasis on the need for virtue, especially the virtues of 
obedience, humility, discernment, and charity, if one is to counter this 'one sin': 
self-love. And all the virtues are learned in constant and persevering prayer. God 
said to her: "Oh, how delightful to the soul and pleasing to me is holy prayer 
made in the house of self-knowledge and knowledge of me!" (33). They form a circle 
in which both are needed (34) . Within this cell of self-knowledge mirrored in 
God's love Catherine dwelt in the 'inner mountain' and from the abundance of an 
overflowing heart she was able to cry out: 

"Thanks, thanks be to you, high eternal Godhead, 
that you have shown us such great love 

by fashioning us with these gracious powers in our soul: 
understanding to know you 
memory to keep you in mind, 
to hold you within ourselves; 
will and love to love you more than anything else" (35) . 

We today are the heirs of this living tradition. It began in Christ when he 


became incarnate for us and showed us the way back to the Father, and passed it 
on to those who have followed after him in love. Quite different in their temper- 
ament, personal calling, and historical environment yet related in a tradition 
broad enough to include them' all, our spiritual ancestors form a continuity with 
that traditon expressed uniquely in each case. Their return from the 'outer moun- 
tain' of the unstable self to the 'inner mountain' of stability gained in the 
vision of God, effected a transformation from strength to strength resulting in a 
new creation. Knowing themselves and all men in the mirror of God's love they 
have passed the fruits of their experience and knowledge on to us. 

Sister Miriam, O.P. 


1. Contra Gentes 2., trans. Boniface Ramsey, O.P. and Larz Pearson, O.P. in "Church 
Father's Understanding of the Human Condition", Spitituality Today, Vol. 33 
(December 1981), p. 306. 

2. Ibid. ,3. 

3. De Incarn . , 15-16, (LCC 3. 69) 

4. The Life of Anthony , trans. Robert C. Gregg (New York: Paulist Press , 1980) , 2 . 

5. Ibid. ,3. 

6. Ibid. ,14. 

7. Ibid. ,20. 

8. Ibid., 49. 

9. Ibid., 51. 

10. Ibid., 73. 

11. See, Ibid. ,55. 

12. Jordan of Saxony: On the Beginnings of the Order of Preachers , ed . , trans. 
Simon Tugwell, O.P. (Parable, 1982), 3. 

13. See, M.-H. Vicaire, Saint Dominic and His Times (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964) , p. 17 

14. Ibid. ,p.30. 

15. Jordan, 11. 

16. Ibid. ,12. 

17. Vicaire, pp. 37-39. 

18. Jordan, 12. 

19. Ibid. 

20. Ibid., 13. 

21. The Works of John C as si an , trans. Rev. Edgar C.S. Gibson, M. A. , The Nicene and 
Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. XI (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans , 1978), Eighth 
Conference, III, VI. 

22. Third Conference , VI. 

23. Eleventh Conference, VI. 

24. Fourteenth Conference, XIII. 

25. Ninth Conference, I, II. 

26. Ibid. , V, VI. 

27. Tenth Conference ,X. 

28. Ninth Conference, XV, See, XI, XIV. 

29. It is interesting to note the great similarity between Cassian's concept of 
prayer, and the nine ways of prayer of St. Dominic. 


30. Acta Sanctorum , March, Vol. I, p. 665. 

31. Ibid. , p. 668. 

32. Catherine of Siena: The Dialogue , trans. Suzanne Noffke, O.P. (New York: Paulist 
Press, 1980), 13. 

33. Ibid. , 66. 

34. Ibid., 10. 

35. The Prayers of Catherine of Siena , ed. Suzanne Noffke, O.P. (New York: Paulist 
Press, 1983), Prayer 1, p. 16. 



The purpose of this paper is twofold: to give a brief description 
of how St. Dominic and his early followers went about praying privately 
and where these prayer-forms may have come from, and, more importantly, 
to bring to light the underlying meaning of these prayer-forms, the dis- 
positions of soul which gave rise to these particular words and gestures. 
It is these dispositions, I think, more than the forms themselves, which 
are universally valid and hence relevant to us today. 

Since liturgy is the public worship of God in community, it will 
not be treated here, but, rather, the individual's response to God's 
call to intimacy with himself in prayer, even though such response, as 
in the case of Dominic, is often witnessed by others. Devotions, how- 
ever, as falling between the two broad categories, public and private, 
will be given a place here. 

I have tried to keep footnotes to a minimum, including instead a 
brief bibliography at the end of the paper. Hopefully in this way, the 
sisters will be moved to take up these books for themselves and re-read 
them, thus drinking from the same sources of the Dominican charism and 
growing, as I did, in love for St. Dominic and his first sons and daughters 

Part I - The Prayer of Saint Dominic 

"'.'/hat we must say something about here is the way 
of praying in which the soul uses the members of 
the body in order to rise more devotedly to God, 
so that the soul, as it causes the body to move, 
is in turn moved by the body... The blessed 
Dominic used often to pray like this." (1) 

This brief passage from the introduction to the Nine Ways of 
Prayer of St. Dominic expresses as well as can be the inner dynamic of 
St. Dominic's prayer. The soul consciously uses bodily movements in 
order to aid its concentration on God and these bodily movements in turn 
assist the soul in reaching greater heights of devotion. In this way, 
the totality of the person is engaged in the pursuit of God. 

In one sense, such a form of prayer is not unique, or even unusual. 
The liturgy has always employed bodily gestures as a means of expressing 
attitudes that, hopefully, are interior to the participants. We know 
that the early Dominican liturgy was quite athletic and, in fact, re- 
mained so until within living memory. 

However, private prayer is another matter. In this, Dominic does 
seem to have been unique, at least in his day and in the Western tradi- 
tion, in his extensive use of body language at prayer. Cassian, who 
according to 31essed Jordan, was the mentor of Dominic's youth, speaks 
in his Ninth Conference of joy and delight so great that it breaks out 
in shouts which are audible in the cell of a neighbor. But this is 
apparently by way of exception, for later in the same conference he 
counsels prayer in complete silence, so as not to disturb the brethren 
or give the demons a clue to our inner dispositions. (2) Similar 
injunctions may be found in the Rule of St. Benedict and in subsequent 
monastic literature, up to and including the Primtive Constitutions of 
the Friars Preachers. (3) Twelfth century Cistercians were enjoined 
to kneel upright during private prayer with their hands clasped in front 


of them, and in the Vitae Fratrum we are told that this was the way in which 
Blessed Jordan prayed. (4) In fact, a diligent search through the early 
documents pertaining to the brethren and the nuns will reveal very few in- 
stances of the use of bodily gestures, with the exception of the discipline, 
such as we read of in the Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic . 

Dominic, then, was as individual and innovative in his life of prayer 
as he was in his religious and apostolic life. But, just as under his new 
way of living the vita apostolica lay a solid core of ecclesial tradition, 
so too, under this unique way of expressing his response to God in prayer, 
lay the whole gamut of basic attitudes of prayer common to persons in every 
generation. These basic attitudes are stated with particular eloquence in 
the monastic writings which, as we have already seen, formed the staple diet 
of Dominic's early formation. So let us examine each of the Nine Ways in 
turn, seeking first to uncover the underlying disposition of spirit, then to 
link it with the monastic tradition as Dominic knew it, and finally to see 
how this dispostion is embodied in word and gesture. 

First Way 

"...the holy father, standing with his body erect, would 
bow his head and his heart humbly before Christ his Head, 
considering his own servile condition and the outstanding 
nobility of Christ...." 

It is significant that St. Dominic's first way, and the beginning of 
his every prayer, was the way of humility and reverence, for these are the 
basic attitudes behind every form of prayer, from the lowliest petition to 
the most exalted contemplation. They are the sine qua non of our approach 
to God. As the Lord said to Moses at the burning bush: "Put off your shoes 
from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." 
And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Ex. 3:5,6) From 
then on, the Scriptures will state repeatedly that the fear of the Lord is 
the beginning of wisdom. All the early monastic writers speak of this funda- 
mental realization of our nothingness before God, and the theme is taken up 
over and over again by spiritual writers down to the present time. Perhaps 
the most succinct and eloquent statement of this truth may be found in the 
biography of St. Catherine of Siena, where God the Father says: "I am he 
who is; you are she who is not." 

The embodiment of this attitude by bowing one's head before the altar, 
before the crucifix and at the Gloria Patri , was taught by Dominic to his 
brethren and has remained a tradition in the Order. It is well worth re- 
membering the profound significance behind this very simple gesture. 

Second Way 

"St. Dominic also often used to pray by throwing himself 
down on the ground, flat on his face, and then his heart 
would be pricked with compunction, and he would ... say .. . 
the words from the gospel, 'Lord, be merciful to me, a 
sinner' . " 

St. Dominic's second way of prayer is the way of "compunction", of 
being pierced to the heart at the remembrance of one's sins. This remem- 


brance and sorrow for sin is an outgrowth of the first way, the way of 
humility and reverence. It, too, is a basic disposition for all prayer, 
and a necessary preparation for contemplation. Both Cassian and Gregory 
the Great, among many other monastic writers, speak at length of compunction, 
usually associating it with tears. We shouldn't be surprised, therefore, 
when we read over and over again in his acts of canonization that "when 
Dominic spent the night in prayer, his petitions were accompanied with groans 
and tears." This attitude of compunction is expressed constantly in the Scrip- 
tures, especially in the Psalms, and the author of the Nine Ways assures us 
that these inspired prayers often flowed from the lips of Dominic as he be- 
wailed his sins . 

The bodily gesture of prostration is expressive of humility, of great 
grief, even of physical weakness adduced by the remembrance of our sins. 
We wait for God to lift us from our misery. This gesture of humility and 
repentance was also a tradition in the Order until recent years. 

Third Way 

"For this reason, rising up from the ground, he used 
to take the discipline with an iron chain." 

St. Dominic's third way of prayer is an extension of the second way, 
the way of compunction, of sorrow for sin, and not only for his own sins, 
but the sins of the world as well. But a new note has been added: that 
of reparation, of satisfaction for sins committed. Constantine of Orvieto 
tells us: "Using an iron chain, he administered the discipline upon him- 
self three times every night; one was for himself, the second for sinners 
still living in the world, and the third for souls suffering in purgatory." (5) 

The use of corporal penance as a means of satisfaction for sins was not 
unknown in the ancient monastic world, but the emphasis was entirely differ- 
ent. A monk fasted, kept vigil, prayed the psalms, primarily to subdue his 
own passions, bringing their inordinate rumblings so under control that his 
mind and heart, now purified, would be open to the vision of God in contem- 
plation. If the monk sinned, a certain course of penitential practice was 
set for him by his spiritual father, enabling him to return to his former 
purified state, assuring God of his contrition for sin and re-opening him 
to healing and vivifying grace. (There is no question here of sacramental 
confession and absolution, although the monastic mentality was later greatly 
to influence the theology of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.) In exception- 
al circumstances, a monk, out of the superabundance of charity, might under- 
take this penitential discipline on behalf of a fellow monk, but this was 
rare and looked upon with a certain awe in the early tradition. (6) 

Was St. Dominic unique in the universal apostolic thrust of his prayer 
and penance? Certainly, we do not read of his predecessors in the monastic 
tradition crying out in their night vigils: "My God, mercy! What will 
become of poor sinners?" And at the end of the Second Way we read that "he 
exhorted the young men, too, saying to them, 'If you cannot weep for your 
own sins, because you have none, still there are many sinners to be direct- 
ed toward mercy and love. . . . '" 

As for the penitential practice that embodies this attitude of mind and 
heart, namely self-flagellation, it is virtually unheard of in the early 
monastic tradition. Cassian, for example, nowhere mentions it. Neither does 
the Rule of St. Benedict. However, it began to creep into Western monasticism 
sometime during the early Middle Ages and was already well established by the 


time of St. Peter Damian in the 11th century. (7) Dominic would have 
accepted the discipline simply as a matter of course. But he also accepted 
the more traditional means to purification of heart: fasting, vigils (as 
distinct from the midnight office), psalmody, bodily discomforts. And for 
his brethren he also specified study, while the nuns retained the practice 
of manual labor. These modes of asceticism have remained traditional in 
the Order down to the present day. 

Fourth Way 

"After this, St. Dominic .. .would fix his gaze on the 
Crucifix, looking intently at Christ on the cross and 
kneeling down over and over again, a hundred times 
perhaps; sometimes he would spend the whole time from 
after Compline until midnight getting up and kneeling 
down again. ..." 

St. Dominic's fourth way of prayer is the way of contemplation of the 
Crucified. Here, immersed in the love of the One whom the Father gave for 
love of us, he finds the resolution of the anguish and seeming conflict 
which he experienced in the first three ways. "And a great confidence 
would grow in (him), confidence in God's mercy for himself and for all 
sinners..." This confidence, in turn, led him to "penetrate heaven in his 
mind" and to "be in an intensity of desire." Thus now he is seen to exper- 
ience what Gregory the Great calls the compunction of love. As he describes 
it in his Dialogues : 

"...when this fear subsides through prolonged sorrow 
and penance, a feeling of security emerges from an 
assurance of forgiveness, and the soul begins to 
burn with a love for heavenly joys. Now. . . (he) . . . 
sheds abundant tears because his entrance into the 
kingdom of heaven is being delayed." (8) 
Assuming that the text of the Nine Ways is accurate, it would seem that 
Dominic's contemplation of Christ on the cross did not stem from any desire 
for external or even internal conformity to the Sacred Humanity such as was 
already gaining momentum in the Franciscan stream of spirituality and would 
reach its culmination in the many stigmatics and mystics of the 14th and 15th 
centuries. Rather, he sought to enter, with the Incarnate Word, into the 
depths of God's loving plan for the salvation of the world. This can be seen 
not only in his own passionate love for sinners, but in his sending forth of 
the novices to preach. "...confidence would grow in him... for the protection 
of the novices whom he used to send out all over the place to preach to souls.' 
As Christ sent his disciples, so Dominic sent his novices and accompanied them 
by his prayers. When one of them demurred on the grounds of ignorance, the 
holy founder said: "Go, my son, and go confidently. Twice a day I shall pre- 
sent you to God. Have no doubts; you shall win many persons for God and shall 
bear much fruit." (9) Truly it was fitting that he should gain such confi- 
dence "by gazing on the Crucified. 

The bodily gesture which accompanies this contemplative gaze is genuflec- 
tion. The genuflection was originally a mark of homage to a secular ruler, 
particularly the Roman emperor. Only gradually did it make the transition from 
throne and court to altar and liturgy. Even in the 13th century, the Mass did 


not contain anything like the number of genuflections that were character- 
istic of it in post-Trident ine times. (10) But St. Dominic, according to 
our text, had made the genuflection "his own special art and his own person- 
al service" to his Lord and King. We even receive from the text an impress- 
ion of physical grace and beauty: "his movements would display great com- 
posure and agility as he stood up and kneeled down." This example of our 
holy Father's is well worth remembering as we make the countless routine 
genuflections expected of us during the day. 

Fifth Way 

"Sometimes ... our holy father Dominic would stand upright 
before the altar, not leaning on anything or supported 
by anything, but with his whole body standing straight 
up on his feet... If you had seen his devotion as he 
stood there erect in prayer, you would have thought you 
were looking at a prophet conversing with an angel or 
with God, now talking, now listening, now thinking 
quietly about what had been revealed to him." 

St. Dominic's fifth way of prayer is the way of total, loving attention 
to God and to his word. This word seems, at one and the same time, to de- 
scend from on high and to well up from the depths of his heart. " 
would have heard him pronouncing, with the utmost enjoyment and relish, some 
lovely text from the very heart of sacred scripture..." 

Such prayer is, in a way, akin to the ancient monastic practice of 
meditat io , the continual murmured repetition of some phrase from the Scrip- 
tures until it becomes part of the person. But rather than being a slow, 
laborious exercise intended to lead to prayer, St. Dominic's meditatio was 
itself prayer, indeed a gift from God, to be received in the manner of pro- 
phetic inspiration and requiring only the effort of his whole-hearted 

Attention and openness, the attitude of listening, is another very basic 
disposition for all who would approach God in prayer. It is akin to obedi- 
ence and docility, teachableness. Isaiah says (50: 4-5): " the morn- 
ing he wakens my ear, that I may hear him as a master. The Lord God has 
opened my ear, and I do not resist: I have not gone back." The Rule of St. 
Benedict, quoting from one of the wisdom psalms, teaches (Prologue 8. 21) 
that the monk must listen to the voice of the Lord in order to learn the way 
that leads to life, not the life of earthly prosperity which the Old Testa- 
ment promised, but eternal life with God in Christ. In the Gospels, God the 
Father says of Christ: "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." One of the 
aims of the monk's ascetical practice is so to quiet the passions that he may 
listen with pure and uncluttered heart to the Word of God. Such listening 
in complete openness and availability is a form of contemplation. In fact, 
as our text informs us, it is the best possible way to fulfill the scriptural 
injunction to pray constantly. 

The basic gesture which embodies this pure attentiveness to God is stand- 
ing unsupported and erect "straight up on his feet". Isn't this the way a 
soldier stands, "at attention"? However, Dominic's posture is not tense and 
rigid, but supple and active. He pantomimes with his hands the various activ- 
ities of reading, listening, pondering, a clear example of the work of the 
spirit spontaneously overflowing into the body. Standing with the arms out- 

■ 24- 

stretched in the manner of a priest at Mass is a traditional posture for 
private prayer, both in the Old Testament and in the early Church. (11) 

Sixth Way 

"...our holy father Dominic was also seen praying with 
his hands and arms spread out like a cross, stretching 
himself to the limit and standing as upright as he 
possibly could ..." 

St. Dominic's sixth way of prayer is the way of receptivity to God's 
power working through him in an extraordinary, and usually miraculous, way. 
Perhaps the best commentary is that of the author of the Nine Ways : 
"(he prayed) in this way when he desired to be extraor- 
dinarily moved towards God by the power of his prayer, 
or rather, when he felt himself being moved by God in 
a particularly expansive way, through some hidden inspir- 
ation, in view of some special grace for himself or for 
somebody else... He neither forbade the brethren to pray 
like this nor did he encourage it." 
Apparently Dominic knew when God intended to use him as the instrument for 
the performance of some mighty deed and was moved, under divine inspiration, 
both to ask for such grace and to open himself to receive it. He obviously 
could not encourage his brethren to ask in a similar way for gratiae gratis 
datae which God did not intend to give, but neither could he forbid the 
exercise of such charismatic gifts on the part of those who had received 

The gesture with which St. Dominic expressed this receptivity to God's 
special gifts was, as the text implies, a gesture of expansiveness , stretch- 
ing his arms to the limit in the form of a cross. This was not a form of 
penance, in imitation of the sufferings of Christ crucified, but rather a 
form of supplication in complete openness, as in the case of Christ's prayer 
on the cross, "which was heard because of his reverence". (Heb. 5:7) 

Seventh Way 

"He was also often found stretching his whole body 
up towards heaven in prayer, like a choice arrow 
shot straight up from a bow... And it is believed 
that at such times he received an increase of grace 
and was caught up in rapture...." 

St. Dominic's seventh way of prayer is the way of rapture, or more 
properly speaking, of ecstasy, of being drawn totally out of himself into 
God. At such times he "seemed suddenly to enter the Holy of Holies and 
the third heaven". Like the preceding way, this one is clearly extraor- 
dinary, although not in the same sense. The power of working miracles and 
other such charismatic graces are given only to a few and are given for the 
good of others. They are not necessarily a fruit of sanctity, although 
they are often associated with it. The higher states of prayer, on the 
other hand, while extraordinary in the sense that few people seem to reach 
them in this life, are nevertheless the normal flowering of a life of 


fidelity Co grace and prayer. Therefore, in contrast to the sixth way, we 
read here that "the holy master taught the brethren to pray like this both 
by his words and by his example." 

But even St. Dominic's ecstasies were not for himself alone. "...his 
prayer won from God for the Order... the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and, for 
himself and his brethren, ... delight and enjoyment in putting the Beatitudes 
into practice..." It is fitting that he who had exhorted the brethren to 
do penance for their sins and the sins of the world, and who had gained con- 
fidence for them at the foot of the cross, should now win for them from 
heaven itself the fulness of the Holy Spirit and the joy of evangelical 
living . 

This way of sublime, ecstatic prayer is also borne witness to by the 
early monastic authors. Cassian, for example, describes it as "that ardent 
prayer which is known and tried by but very few, and which to speak more 
truly is ineffable; which transcends all human thoughts ... expressing in the 
shortest possible space of time such great things that the mind when it re- 
turns to its usual condition cannot easily utter or relate." (12) Such 
prayer is usually experienced only by those who have attained purity of heart 
through long years of monastic discipline. 

The bodily posture which St. Dominic adopted during this form of prayer 
was that of stretching his whole body up toward heaven. The author of the 
Nine Ways uses the simile of an arrow shot straight up from a bow. Perhaps 
we would speak of a rocket ready to soar. Clearly this is another example 
of the body spontaneously participating in the activity of the spirit. 

Eighth Way 

"...Sitting there quietly he would open some book before 
him, arming himself first with the sign of the cross, and 
then he would read. Ane he would be moved in his mind as 
delightfully as if he heard the Lord speaking to him." 

St. Dominic's eighth way of prayer is one which we might be surprised 
to find considered as prayer, namely lee t io divina , sacred reading. And 
yet the author of the Nine Ways explicitly calls it "another beautiful way 
of praying, full of devotion and grace." 

Lee t io d ivina is basically the slow, prayerful reading of the Scrip- 
tures or writings of the early Church Fathers. Its purpose is not scien- 
tific study or an exact exegesis of the literal meaning of the text, help- 
ful though these may be, but the penetration of (and penetration by) God's 
revealing Word in all its ramifications. St. Ambrose (quoted in the Nuns' 
Constitutions) calls it a form of conversation, in which God speaks to us 
through the sacred text and we speak to him in prayerful response. 

This is exactly the way in which St. Dominic carried out lee tip . 
"It was as if he were arguing with a f riend ;... feeling impatient, nodding 
his head energetically ... 1 istening quiet ly ... disputing and struggling, 
and laughing and weeping ... fixing his gaze, submitting ... speaking quietly 
and beating his breast..." One gets the impression from this description 
that, even on the human level, Dominic was a delightful and animated con- 
versational is t . 

For medieval monastic writers, lectio was the first step in a sort of 
"ladder" of prayer. One read the text ( lee t i o) then pondered it ( med i tatio ) , 
which usually meant repeating it over and over aloud. From this, one was 
moved to turn to God in prayer (oratio) and being thus disposed, one could 

■ 26- 

then enjoy the savor of God's presence in contemplation ( contemplat io ) . 
The author of the Nine Ways remarks that Dominic "had a prophetic way of 
passing quickly from reading to prayer and from meditation to contemplation." 
He would seem to be implying that the saint was so proficient in prayer that 
he had no need to climb the rungs of the ladder in order, one at a time, but 
could pass immediately into the higher ways of communion with God. 

However, we might note that St. Dominic's extensive and spontaneous use 
of verses from Scripture, especially the psalms, in his prayer probably 
stemmed from the constant practice of meditatio in his formative years, both 
as a child with his uncle the archpriest and as a student at Palencia. From 
the earliest times, monks were expected to memorize the whole Psalter by means 
of this constant repetition, and we are told explicitly that St. Dominic also 
knew "almost by heart" the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistles of Paul. 

As for his physical comportment during lectio , it could well set an ex- 
ample for anyone wishing to do this kind of prayerful reading. He 
"would go off quickly on his own to a cell or somewhere, 
sober and alert ... there he would sit down to read or pray, 
recollecting himself in himself and fixing himself in the 
presence of God. Sitting there quietly he would open some 
book before him, arming himself first with the sign of the 
cross, and then he would read... When he was reading like 
this on his own, he used to venerate the book and bow to 
it and sometimes kiss it, particularly if it was a book of 
the gospels . . . . " 
Solitude, peacefulness , recollection, reverence, are key words for any form 
of prayer, and lectio divina , under St. Dominic's guidance, becomes a very 
special form of prayer. 

Ninth Way 

"...sometimes he went aside from his companion or went on 
ahead or, more often, lingered far behind; going on on his 
own he would pray as he walked, and a fire was kindled in 
his meditation..." 

St. Dominic's ninth way of prayer is simply his way of meditating as 
he trod the dusty roads of Europe. It would seem that part of the Dominican 
charism consists in traveling, and the many tedious hours spent on the jour- 
ney were for Dominic a very precious opportunity for intimate converse with 
God. The witnesses for his canonization process can give us more infor- 
mation as to how he went about it. 

"...when they were traveling .. .he either prayed or preached 
or devoted himself to mental prayer and meditation on God... 
Master Dominic used to say... to the others who were with him, 
'Go on ahead and let us meditate on Our Savior.' The wit- 
ness then used to hear him groaning and sighing." (13) 

"Walking along the same route, they once got caught in a 
heavy rainstorm, a downpour. The streams and rivers were 
all swollen, but ... Brother Dominic praised and blessed God 
by singing the Ave Maris Stella in a strong voice. When he 
finished that hymn, he began another, the Veni Creator 
Spiritus." (14) 


"During (the witness') journeys with him and others 
through the forests, he would lag behind and when a 
search was made, he was often found on his knees, even 
though there was real danger from swift packs of wolves 
that often attacked." (15) 
In some ways at least, the dangers and fatigue attached to travel are as 
great nowadays as they were in St. Dominic's time. His example of recol- 
lection and trust in God should serve as an inspiration to all his sons 
and daughters . 

To conclude the first part of this paper, on the prayer of St. Dominic, 
let us look at two texts from the Libel lus of Jordan of Saxony, which admir- 
ably sum up all that we have seen so far. They describe St. Dominic's life 
as a canon of Osma. In the first text Jordan tells us: "He prayed without 
ceasing and, making use of the leisure afforded for contemplation, he 
scarcely ever left the monastery grounds." (16) In other words, he led a 
life indistinguishable, except by certain pastoral duties, from that of the 
monks of previous generations. Both "prayer without ceasing" and "leisure 
afforded for contemplation" were common expressions in the monastic liter- 
ature of the times. However, Jordan goes on to add: "God gave him the 
singular gift of weeping for sinners, the wretched, and the afflicted, 
whose sufferings he felt within his compassionate heart..." A singular 
gift - that is, a unique charism, a radical departure from the traditional 
monastic spirituality, which was concerned primarily (although not exclusive- 
ly) with the salvation of the individual monk. Dominic had already come into 
contact with the wretched and the afflicted while he was a student at Palen- 
cia. The sight of their wan faces and wavering hopes had left on him an 
indelible impression. 

In the next paragraph, Blessed Jordan speaks even more strongly about 
the apostolic zeal of this contemplative man: "His frequent and special 
prayer to God was for the gift of true charity capable of laboring for and 
procuring the salvation of men, since he deemed that he would be a true 
member of Christ only when he could devote himself entirely to winning souls, 
like the Lord Jesus, the Savior of all men, who offered himself completely 
for our salvation." (17) 

Here we have the essence of the prayer of St. Dominic, and, indeed, of 
all Dominican prayer. Dominic was consumed with zeal for the salvation of 
souls, desiring to imitate Christ, not in some literal conformity to Gospel 
descriptions, but in his mission and his self-offering as Savior of all. 
What is most remarkable about this passage is that the man whose prayer is 
thus portrayed was still a canon regular, still a contemplative by profes- 
sion, with no apparent intention of ever leaving his enclosure. That he 
later did so is an essential factor in his vocation but it in no way alters 
the fundamental character of his prayer. This observation is especially 
important for the nuns of the Order of Preachers. Here at the beginning, 
at the root of everything, is our point of insertion into the charism of 
St. Dominic. This apostolic zeal and imitation of Christ's self-oblation 
will enable us, without any departure from monastic observance, to live at 
the very heart of all that is truly Dominican. 

Let us turn our attention now to the first sons and daughters of this 
great contemplative apostle, and see how they embodied his charism in their 
lives of prayer. 

To be continued. 

Sister Mary Martin, O.P. Summit 



(1) "The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic," Early Dominicans , 
Selected Writings , ed. Simon Tugwell, O.P. (New York: Paulist Press, 1982) 
pp. 94-103. All quotations from the Nine Ways are from this source. 

(2) The Conferences of John Cassian , trans. Edgar C.S. Gibson ("The 
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers," Second Series, Vol. XI \_Grand Rapids: 
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973]) Conf. IX, Chaps. XXVII and XXXV 

(3) cf. Rule of St. Benedict, Chap. 52; Primitive Constitutions of 
the Order, 1,12; Ordo Qualiter (PL66, 941; quoted in: Paul Philippe, O.P., 
"L'Oraison Dominicaine au XHIe Siecle," La Vie Spirituelle, Suppl. Feb. 1947, 
p. 442) 

(4) Lives of the Brethren of the Order of Preachers , trans. Placid 
Conway, O.P., ed . Bede Jarret, O.P. (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1924) 
Pt. 3, VI 

(5) Constantine of Orvieto, "Legenda Sancti Dominici," #37; St. Dominic , 
Biographical Documents , ed . F.C. Lehner, O.P. (Washington D.C.: The Thomist 
Press, 1964) p. 77 

(6) These observations are culled from a repeated reading of early 
sources. cf. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers , trans. Benedicta Ward, SLG 
(Oxford:A.R. Mowbray & Co,. Ltd., 1975); The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers , 
trans. Benedicta Ward, SLG (Oxford, SLG Press, 1977) etc. 

(7) cf. J. Leclerq, F. Vandenbroucke and L. Bouyer, The Spirituality 
of the Middle Ages , (London: Burns & Oates, 1968) pp. 117-118 

(8) Gregory the Great, Dialogues , trans. Odo John Zimmerman, O.S.B. 
("The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation" Vol. 39 [New York: The 
Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1959] )pp . 173-174 

(9) Stephen of Salagnac, "De quatuor in quibus Deus Praedicatorum 
ordinem insignivit," 1,8; St. Dominic, Biographical Documents , ed . F.C. 
Lehner, O.P. (Washington, D.C.: The Thomist Press, 1964) p. 53 

(10) Joseph A. Jungmann , S.J., The Mass of the Roman Rite , trans. 
Francis A. Brunner, C.SS.R. (2 Vols.; New York: Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1950) 
I, p. 123; II, p. 212 

(11) Ibid; I,p.239 

(12) Cassian, Conf. IX, Chap. XXV 

(13) Processus canonizationis sancti Dominici (apud Bononiam) #41; 

St. Dominic, Biographical Documents , ed . F.C. Lehner, O.P., (Washington, D.C.: 
The Thomist Press, 1964) p. 129 

(14) Ibid.; #21 (Lehner, p. 112) 

(15) Processus canonizationis sancti Dominici (apud Tholosam), #10 
(Lehner, p. 141) 


(16) Jordan of Saxony, "Libellus de principiis ordinis praedicatorum, " 
•M2; St. Dominic, Biographical Documents , ed. F.C. Lehner, O.P. (Washington, D.C 
The Thomist Press, 1964) p. 12 

(17) Ibid. , #13 (Lehner, p. 12) 


Tugwell, Simon, O.P. Early Dominicans, Selected Writings . New York: Paulist 
Press, 1982 

Lehner, F.C., O.P. St. Dominic, Biographical Documents . Washington, D.C.: 
The Thomist Press, 1964 

Conway, Placid, O.P. (trans.) Lives of the Brethren of the Order of Preachers 
New York: Benziger Brothers, 1924 

Vicaire, M.-H., O.P. Saint Dominic and His Times , trans. Kathleen Pond. 
London: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1964 

Vann, Gerald, O.P. To Heaven With Diana! New York: Pantheon Books, 1960 

Philippe, Paul, O.P. "L'Oraison Dominicaine au XHIe Siecle," La Vie 
Spirituelle , Suppl. February 1947, pp. 424-454 

The Conferences of John Cassian . trans. Edgar C.S. Gibson. ("The Nicene 
and Post-Nicene Fathers", Second Series, Vol. XI) Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerd- 
mans Publishing Co., 1973 


N ine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic: A Study (continued from February issue) 

Lufkin Novitiate 

"Come in, let us bow, 
prostrate ourselves, 
and kneel in front of 
Yahweh our maker, for 
this is our God, and 
we are the people he 
pastures, the flock 
he guides." 

(Ps. 95:6-7) 

St. Dominic, standing before the altar or in the Chapter Room, would 
fix his gaze on the crucifix, looking intently at Christ on the Cross 
and kneeling down over and over again. Sometimes he would spend the whole 
time from the end of Compline until midnight kneeling down and standing 
up again, like the apostle James and the leper in the Gospel who knelt 
down and said, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean", (Mk. 1:40), 
and like Stephen, who knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Do 
not reckon up to them this sin." (Acts 7:60). While he prayed, our 
holy father, Dominic, would become more and more assured of the mercy 
of God, both for himself and for all sinners, and for the protection of 
the novices whom he used to send all over the world to preach and win 
souls. Sometimes he could not contain his voice, and the brethren would 
hear him saying, "To you, Lord, will I cry, do not turn away from me in 
silence..." (Ps. 27:1) and other such words from Sacred Scripture. 

Bit also, at times, he spoke in his heart and his voice was not 
heard at all, and he would remain on his knees, his mind caught up in 
wonder and this sometimes lasted- a long time. Sometimes, when he was 
praying like this, his gaze seemed to have penetrated in to the spiritual 
heavens, and he would suddenly be radiant with joy, wiping away the abun- 
dant tears running down his face. At such times he would be in an in- 
tensity of desire, like a thirsty man coming to a spring of water, or a 
traveling man at last approaching his homeland. His prayer became stronger 
and more insistent, his movements rapid yet always sure and orderly, as 
he stood up and knelt down. 

He came to be so used to this prayer of kneeling, that when he was 
on a journey, both in the guesthouse, after the toils of the road, and 
on the road itself, when the others were sleeping and resting, he would 
turn to his genuflections as to his own special practice, his example, more 
than by anything he said. 


The particular spirit or attitude that Dominic brings to this fourth 
way of prayer seems best summarized by the word "HOMAGE". Webster defines 
this word as follows: 

"1. in feudal law, (a) the submission, loyalty, and service 
which a vassal promised to his lord when first admitted to 
the land which he held of him in fee; (b) the act of the vassal 
in making this submission, on being invested with the fee. 

2. obeisance; respect paid by external action; reverence; honor. 

Father Tugwell makes a strong point that this fourth way of prayer 
of our father Dominic is "his own special practice, his own personal 
service." Thus it seems that this kneeling or "genuflections" is a 
very personal way of manifesting Dominic's awareness of the presence 
of the all-holy and all powerful God. This, then, seems to be the ob- 
vious reason the brethren always sensed that he would "become more and 
more assured of the mercy of God, both for himself and for all sinners, 
and for the protection of the novices..." 

Father William Hinnebusch, O.P. also speaks of Dominic's tremen- 
dous awareness of being in the Presence of Christ-crucified. We read, 

"The Order's tender affection for the person of Christ 
arose from the example of St. Dominic, from the pursuit 
of personal sanctif ication by the friars, and from its 
mission to preach ChriBt crucified. Through these sources 
it flowed in channels common to the Middle Ages. The 
friars were drawn like their contemporaries toward the 
sacred humanity of Christ. They manifested and helped 
develop the devotions which focused on the Sacred Passion, 
the Precious Blood, the Five Wounds, the Pierced Heart, 
and the Blessed Sacrament. 

"Engrossed in his contemplation of the sufferings of 
Christ, St. Dominic would remain before the altar or 
in the chapter room with his gaze fixed on the Cruci- 
fied One, looking upon him with perfect attention. He 
would continue sometimes from after compline until mid- 
night, now rising, now kneeling...*? 


The divine Spouse, himself, now deigned to become her teacher; 
and from this time began that wonderful intercourse between Catherine 
and her Beloved, "the closeness of which", says Blessed Raymond, "can 
be compared to nothing but the familiar intimacy of two friend6." 

One day as »he was praying, our Lord appeared to her and said; 
'Daughter, knowest thou who thou art, and what I am. Thou art she that 
i6 not, and I am He who is. Now if a man were thoroughly persuaded of 
this how could he be proud, or how could he glory in himself or in any 
of his works, if he knew that he had nothing of his own but defects and 
sin? But because, if he considered this truth alone he would fall away 


into despair, therefore, it is needful also that he know that I am He 
that is. The creature, therefore, that sees this and knows that he can 
have no being in himself, nor find any good in himself or any other 
creature, turns himself to God, who alone is able to slake the thirst of his 
natural desires and longings. And so, beholding Him, the creature be- 
gins to sigh towards Him, and to be influenced with the love of Him. And 
he conceives a certain holy fear, so that he will not suffer the least 
motion in his heart which could offend so sweet and bountiful a Master. 
And he rests so firmly on the provident goodness of God that no adversity 
disturbs him, because he knows that God permits it for his salvation; 
and he understands that there is no labor or sorrow in this world, however 
grievous, that can be compared to the glorious reward he looks for from 
the hands of God. 

A steadfast trust in the providence of God was also taught .her by 
another of these divine words: "Think of Me, and I will think of thee." 
Which words she understood, as though He had said: "Have no care or 
thought of thyself for soul or body, because I who know better what is 
good for thee, will think and provide for all thy necessities." If at 
any time she saw her companions troubled by some vexation, "Leave all to 
God," she would say. "What have you to do of yourselves? For you to 
bestow care about these things is to take from God His care and provi- 
dence, as though He could not or would not provide." 



"The nuns should always keep in mind Christ the Lord who during 
his life on earth offered up prayers and supplications aloud and with 
tears to God and now seated at the right hand of the divine Majesty lives 
eternally to make intercession for us. (#80, S-l) 

"They should also remember the admonitions of the Apostle Paul: 
pray without ceasing", be filled with the Holy Spirit speaking one to 
another in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles; I plead with you, 
therefore, first of all to make entreaties, prayers, supplications and 
thanksgiving for all men." (#80, S-Il) 

"Therefore the wholewOf the nun's life is harmoniously directed 
teward the continual remembrance of God. In the celebration of the 
Eucharist and the Divine Office, in meditation and the reading of the 
sacred text, by private prayer, watchings and petitions they seek to put 
on the mind of Christ Jesus. In silence and peace they earnestly seek 
the face of the Lord and they never cease making petitions to the God of 
salvation for all men. They give thanks to God the Father who has called 
them from darkness into his marvelous light, Christ, who for all men was 
fastened to the cross should be impressed on their hearts. In accomplish- 
ing all these things, they are truly nuns of the Order of Preachers. 
(#80, S-IV) 

"Tireless in prayer with hearts centered upon the Lord, the nuns, in 
addition to liturgical prayer should persevere fervently and earnestly in 
private prayer to which Holy Father Dominic and the first brethren and 
sisters of the Order wfere wholeheartedly devoted." (#93) 



Holy Father, St. Dominic, you who are the "Friend, fast- 
knit to Christ", bestow upon us your daughters a double 
portion of your own deep love for Jesus, crucified and 
risen. You knew and trusted totally in the all-powerful 
mercy of God, and in this fourth way of prayer you lay 
before us the very means that you used to grow in this 
wonderful confidence and trust. 

Teach us, Father Dominic, how to give ourselves totally 
to the Lord Jesus, even as you did. Each time we kneel 
before Him, in the Chapel, the Oratory, in our cells, 
after recreation, and in the secret places of our hearts, 
win for us an ever deeper appreciation of His powerful mercy, 
and of His abiding desire to blee6 us with His love. 

May our lives, like your own, ever retain the fragrant 
incense of prayer and adoration, offered to the Lord of 
all, for ourselves, for our brethren, and for all the 
People of God. 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us, that we may be made 
worthy of the promises of Christ. 



"Anybody who receives 
my commandment e and 
keeps them will be one 
who loves me; and any- 
body who loves me will 
be loved by my Father, 
and I shall love him 
and show myself to him." 

(John 14:21) 

Sometimes, when he was in a priory, our holy father Dominic would 
stand, before the altar, his whole body upright, not supported by anything 
or leaning against anything. Sometimes he would hold his hands out before 
his breast, like an open book, and he would stand like this with immense 
reverence and devotion, as if he were reading in the actual presence of 
God, Then, in his prayer, he would appear to be pondering the words of 
God and, as it were, reciting them over to himself with great sweetness 
and delight. He had made his own the Lord's practice, as we find it in 
Luke: ■ 

"Jesus went into the synagogue according to his custom 
(on the Sabbath day, that is) and stood up to read." 
Lk. 4-16) 

And in the psalms: "Phinees stood and prayed and the pestilence stopped." 
Ps. 105:30. 

At other times he joined his hands, holding them tightly together 
before his eyes, hunching himself up. At other times he lifted his hands 
to his shoulders, like the priest at Mass, as if he wanted to fix his ears 
more attentively on something being spoken from the altar. If you had 
seen his devotion as he stood there erect in prayer, you would have thought 
you had seen a prophet conversing with an angel or with God himself, now 
talking, now listening, now thinking quietly about what had been revealed 
to him. 

When he was traveling, he would unobtrusively steal moments of prayer, 
and would stand with his whole mind instantaneously concentrated on heaven, 
and be sure - you would have heard him speaking, with great sweetness and 
savour, some wonderful word taken from the very heart of Sacred Scripture, 
which he would seem to have drawn -fresh from the "Savior's wells", (is. 12:3) 
The brethren used to be greatly moved to see their father and master at 
such times, and, for the more devout among them, it was the best possible 
instruction in how to pray continuously and reverently: "as the eyes of a 
handmaid on the hands of her mistress, and as the eyes of servants on the 
hands of their masters... Ps. 122:2. 


The particular spirit or attitude which Dominic brings to this fifth 
way of prayer is a spirit of intimacy or friendship with God attained 
through the gifts of knowledge and love. 

"...the soul that prays must believe in the love of God to 
whom it prays. Yes, prayer is like speaking face to face 
with God. God and the soul are on the same level. They 
occupy the same inner chamber." As Jesus told us: 

"If anyone love Me he will keep My word, 
and My Father will love him and We will 
come to him and make Our abode with him." 
(Jn. 14:23? 15:15) 

They are like Father and son, the Spouse and His bride, like 
Friend and friend. The soul's colloquy with God must, then, 
have one essential characteristic - INTIMACY, and an intimacy 
born of the closest family ties." -from The Prayer of the Presence 
of God, by Dom August in Guillerand, p. 128. 

The divine Persons are said to be indwelling in as much as they 
are present to intellectual creatures in a way that lies beyond human 
comprehension are known and loved by Them in a purely supernatural manner 
alone, within the deepest sanctuary of the soul. In other words, the 
Three Divine Persons are present in the soul that is in the state of 
grace so that it may know Them by faith, and love Them by charity, and 
that They may even make Themselves known to the soul by the intimate 
illumination of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

The Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are present in a soul in 
the state of grace to invite it to live in Their society, in intimate 
friendship with Them. Jesus stated this clearly: 

"Abide in Me, and I in you", and "I in you and the 
Father in Me, that you may be perfect in one." 
(Jn.15:4 and Jn. 17:23) 

God is within you as your Father and as the sweet Guest of your soul 
to invite you to live, not only by Him, but with Him and in Him. He is 
within you to manifest Himself %o your soul, just as a friend manifests 
himself to his friend, according to the word of Jesus: 

"He that loveth Me, I will love Him and manifest 
Myself to him. I will not now call you servants... 
but I have called you friends." (jn. 14:21; 15:15) 

God Himself, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, 
offers you the invitation to live with Him; He offers you His friendship. 

If thou didst know the gift of God!" (Jn. 4:10) 


HENRY SUSO speaks to Eternal Wisdom: 

He would often turn his mind and heart inward and whisper to himself; 


"Oh, tell me, what is the source of love and bliss? From what foundation 
do the rivers of tenderness, beauty, deep contentment, and delight flow? 
Is it not from the spring of the naked Godhead, ageless as the heavens 
and fresh as the morning dew? Get ready for a plunge, my soul. We will 
dive into the bottomless depth of all Goodness. No one can hinder us. 
Oh, restless source of all rest, I embrace you to my heart's content." 

Having said this, he clasped to himself the first cause of all good, 
wherein his spiritual craving for beauty, love, and happiness was completely 

He adopted another practice at this time. Whenever he listened to 
melodious vocal or instrumental music, or heard someone tell of the delights 
of human friendship, he immediately took refuge in the heart of Him whose 
intimacy is sweeter than all earthly joys; when he enjoyed the familiar 
presence of Eternal Wisdom he felt like a smiling babe held securely on 
its mother's lap. 

These and similar reflections absorbed all his spiritual and sensi- 
tive faculties, his whole life, intellectual and artistic, was caught up 
in one triumphant hymn. "You are my heart's delight and beauty above all 
earihly joy and comeliness... Happiness came to me in your wake and all 
my longings find fulfillment in you." 

- from The Exemplar , by Suso, Be. I t 
p. 11. 



"We should value the profession of chastity as an exceptional gift 
of grace by which we are more intimately consecrated and the more easily 
united with an undivided heart to the God who first loved us. Renouncing 
earthly marriage but loving what it prefigures we follow the Lamb who re- 
deemed us in his blood so that by our offering we become co-operators in 
the work of human redemption." (#29, S-l) 

"Our sisters, striving to persevere faithfully and to advance tire- 
lessly in continence should in all the circumstances of life maintain 
intimate communion with God by means of a loving union with Christ and 
should nourish this with the Sacred Scriptures and the mystery of the 
Eucharist. They should also be strengthened by a filial love for and de- 
votion toward the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God." (#31,) 

"By withdrawal from the world in fact and in spirit, the nuns, like 
prudent virgins awaiting their Lord, are freed from worldly concerns so 
that they may have leisure to devote themselves to the kingdom of God. 
This hidden life opens their minds to the breadth, the height and depths 
of God's love who sent his Son so that the whole world would be saved. 
Such was the enclosure chosen for the nuns from the beginning of the Order 
by the most holy Patriarch and faithfully observed to the present." (#41) 

Also: see #83, #108, #125, S-I:1and 2. 



God, oux Father, we thank you for sending us 
the gifts of your Holy Spirit so that we can 
strive to he united to you in deepest intimacy 
here below, in preparation for that perfect 
vision in heaven. Help us to be always mind- 
ful of your gifts, so that we can become more 
aware of your designs for us. 

In surrendering to your love help us to give 
freely to others. what we have received freely 
from you, that like our brothers and sisters 
in St. Dominic we may have the joy of bringing 
others to you. 

We ask all thi6 in Jesus' Name. Amen. 



"Yahweh, hear my prayer, 
listBn to my pleading, 
answer me faithfully, 
righteously; ... 

I stretch out my hands, 
like thirsty ground I 
yearn for you." 

(Ps. 143:1,5-6) 

St. Dominic's sixth way of prayer was that of praying with his hands 
and arms stretched out as far as they would go, in the form of a cross, 
and standing as upright as he could. His inspiration for praying in this 
manner seems to have come from Ps. 87:2-10: "Lord God of my salvation, I 
have cried to you by day and by night in your presence... I have cried to 
you all day long, Lord to you have I stretched out my hands." Ps. 142:1-6 
also seems to have inspired this prayer of St. Dominic: "Lord, hear my prayer, 
turn your ear to my entreaty. I have stretched out my hands to you,... 
hear me speedily, Lord." 

St. Dominic prayed this way only when he felt himself greatly inspired 
by God through a special inspiration to seek some great grace or miracle. 
In praying this way he relied on the teaching of David (from the Psalms); 
the fire of Elijah (it was through Elijah's prayer that God raised the boy 
from the dead - I Kings 17:21); the love and example of ChriBt (He gave 
his very life in this manner - stretched out on the Cross) ; and His de- 
votion to God. It is interesting that St. Dominic neither forbade the 
brethren to pray like this, nor did he encourage it. St. Dominic prayed 
this way when he raised the- boy from the dead. All those present at this 
great . miracle seem to have been so moved by the 'strange and wonderful 1 
manner of his prayer that they did not catch the words he sppke.* 

♦It is unclear quite what was so 'strange and wonderful' 
about St. Dominic's manner of prayer here, though clearly 
the occasion would of itself lend a certain awesomeness 
to the whole proceeding. Cruciform praying was no real 
novelty, being found from the very first decades of the 
church's existence; but it is quite probable that it had 
fallen out of general use, so its revival by the mendi- 
cants might have seemed odd to people. Certainly the 
mendicants were officially more keen on the bodily ex- 
pression of prayer than were, for instance, the Cister- 
cians. Cecilia mentions levitation, which might account 
for people's amazement. Or there may have been something 
strange about his talking. We cannot be sure. 



The particular spirit or. attitude that St. Dominic "brings to this 
sixth way of prayer is a powerful spirit of faith-filled intercession. 


Intercession: "derived from the Latin "inter" (between) and "cedere" (to 
go or pass); intercession is the act of reconciling the differences between 
two parties. From the theological viewpoint, intercession is the act 
of PLEADING by one who in God's sight has a right to do so in order to 
obtain mercy for one in need. Christ acts as intercessor according to 
His human nature, for only thus can He stand between God and man." 

- from the Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 566-567. 

SUPPLICATION: "the act or process of supplicating; humble and earnest 
entreaty." (Webster's Dictionary) 

Prom these two definitions, it seems that intercession is more specif- 
ically concerned with mediation. Supplication, however, is any prayer of 
humble petition, not necessarily involving differences between two parties. 
Both of these words, however, seem appropriate in describing St. Dominic's 
Sixth Way of prayer. When he prayed with his arms stretched out, he was 
PLEADING with God earnestly and humbly (supplication), and at the same 
time when he was seen praying in this way it was usually on behalf of the 
needs of others, so in this sense he was acting as an INTERCESSOR in union 
with Jesus between God and His people. 

In this sixth way of prayer the distinctive and extraordinary quality 
of St. Dominic's intercession or supplication before God seems to come 
from his very deep FAITH. For St. Dominic, this prayer was more than 
just receiving some special grace from God in which he kn«rw that God wanted 
to work some great miracle through him. The need for his deep spirit of 
faith and prayer in order to receive this power of healing from God is 
brought out clearly in Mt. 17:14: 

"As they were rejoining the crowd a man came up to him 
and went down on his knees before him. 'Lord,' he said, 
'take, pity on my son; he is a lunatic and in a wretched 
state; he is always falling into the fire or into the 
water. I took him to your disciples and they were unable 
to cure him. ' 'Faithless and perverse generation.' ' Jesus 
said in reply. 'How much longer must I be with you? How 
much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.' 
And when Jesus rebuked the devil it came out of the boy 
who wa6 cured from that moment. Then the disciples came 
privately to Jesus. 'Why were we unable to cast it out?' 
they asked. He answered, 'Because you have little faith. 
I tell you solemnly, if your faith were the size of a 
mustard seed you could say to this mountain, 'Move from 
here to there' and it would move; nothing would be im- 
possible for you." 

In praying with his arms outstretched, St. Dominic was imitating 


Jesus Crucified. Not just in the physical appearance of his arms outstretched 
in the form of a Cross, "but also in his spirit of humble submission to 
the Will of God. In the book, The Prayer of Faith , by Quentin Hakenwerth, 
S.M. , there is a very interesting connection made between the real mean- 
ing of the word "intercession" and the need for humility: 

"Jesus knew that it would be good for us to die to sin in 
our life, but he did not ask His Father to bring this 
about in us without it coming through Him. He died first. 
Then he came back to life first, for he is the first- 
fruits of the redemption. He did not ask us to become humble 
or obedient in a way that he did not experience himself. 
Jesus is our mediator in the full sense of the word.. .Prayer 
brings the power of God to bear upon the world and carry 
it toward its fullness, By prayer Jesus submitted him- 
self to that power which transforms and redeems us. 
'During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and 
entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the One who had 
the power to save him out of death, and he submitted 
so humbly that his prayer was heard.' (Heb. 5:7) • 
Jesus asked God to save him, to let the power of God 
work in him everything that He wished to work in us... 
And his prayer was heard, but not without his going 
through the experience of that power transforming and 
redeeming." p. 66-67 • 

From studying St. Dominic's attitude of humble, faith-filled entreaty 
on behalf of those he saw in need, we can see how we too are called to 
share in this form of prayer. Even though we may never feel inspired by 
God to pray that someone be raised from the dead, we can be sure of the 
Divine inspiration given to all of us through the Church to pray for the 
salvation of souls. This is the life - Eternal Life, that we plead for 
in union with Jesus and St. Dominic. It is also only in a spirit of 
deep faith that we can go on praying for this gift of salvation, because 
truly it is a 'hidden work' and for this we may never see the results 
of our prayer in this life. But our faith and our love for souls will 
enable us to go on making constant intercession. In this fervent inter- 
cessory prayer for salvation we again have St. Dominic's example to follow. 
We can be sure that if through God's power and his own faith, St. Dominic 
brought people back to life physically, how much more concerned he must 
have been for their souls. And so following the example of our holy 
Father, St. Dominic, we too can stretch out our arms, and with humble 
pleading turn in faith to the One who can save us, from our sins. "When 
faith is strong it works wonders and its appeal is never refused especially 
when it asks for forgiveness of sin and for that salvation of which it 
is the necessary condition." (footnote "b" from Kt. 8:11) For further 
Scripture and prayer references see: 

Lk. 24:47 Jn. 14:13 Jn. 20:31 Acts 3:6 Acts 4:10 
Acts 16:18 Eph. 5:20 





Knowing that her holy Patriarch, St. Dominic, had instituted- his 
Order mainly for the salvation of souls, Catharine strove by her prayers, 
her letters, and every means in her power to bring souls to God and to 
render them more and more pleasing in His sight. 

"Embrace this cross with all the patience of which you are capable; 
I promise to help you by my continual prayers. In conclusion, I urge 
you to offer this chalice to Qod, saying with Jesus in His agony: 'Thy 
Will be done.'" 

Her charity and compassion for these suffering souls knew no bounds. 
Every Sunday night, Our Lord took her to visit Purgatory and Hell, to 
move her to compassion for sinners. The poor souls in Purgatory often 
appeared to her, soliciting her prayers, and she would take their suffer- 
ings on herself to obtain their release. A signal example of this happened 
in the case of a Prince of scandalous life, for whose coversion she had 
offered tears, prayers and penances for twenty years, and for whom she 
at lesgth obtained the grace of a death-bed repentance. For forty days 
after his death, the Saint was a prey to the most cruel torments; her 
whole body seemed to be on fire, bo that the Sisters could not bear to 
touch her. Often, too, she suffered as a victim of expiation for the 
sins of the world. Her Divine Spouse would lay before her in vision the 
lamentable state of Europe, then overrun with heresy and crime; and the 
Saint would offer herself to bear the punishment which these sins deserved. 

Her perfect trust in God was evinced by the oft-repeated words: 
"God desires our salvation so much, that He always does what is best for 

Then with her right hand she closed her eyes, and, stretching out 
her arms in the form of a Cross, she departed to her Spouse. 

-taken from Saints of the Rosary: St. Catherine de 



"In the liturgy the mystery of salvation is effectively at work, most 
especially in the Eucharist in which Christ is received, the memory of 
his passion brought to mind, the soul filled with grace, and a pledge 
of future glory is given. Appointed to the work of divine worship the 
nuns together with Christ give glory to God for his eternal design and the 
marvelous distribution of grace, and intercede with the Father of Mercies 
for the whole Church as well as for the needs and salvation of the whole 
world..." (#81) 

Also, see page 13 of this text for numbers 80, S-I; 80, 5— II; and 

80, S-III. 



Holy Father, St. Dominic, uniting yourself with Jesus 
in the total gift of Himself on the Cross, you continue 
to offer to God prayer and supplication on my behalf. 
You were so moved by the sacrificial love of Jesus 
for all people, that you have always desired that not 
one soul purchased at so great a price should ever be 

In calling me to be your daughter, you now bless me with 
this same inheritance - zeal for souls! Help me to imitate 
your love for souls and to express this love as you did 
by constant and humble prayer and supplication in union 
with Christ Crucified. 

(to be continued) 



INTRODUCTION. In his classic study, THE GREAT GERMAN MYSTICS, J.M. Clark makes 
this significant statement about the 14th C. flowering of mysticism in Germany 
and the Lowlands: 

"The growth of mysticism was then due to the impact of scholastic philo- 
sophy on educated women in nunneries. The friars had to express theologi- 
cal and philosophical ideas in a garb that would make them intelligible 
to women. The nuns stimulated the pastoral work of the friars and the 
friars encouraged the nuns to press on in the search for spiritual 
perfection." p. 5. 

We are then considering a peak example of that spiritual symbiosis which can be 
so fruitful in any age: a complementary search, growth and flowering which has 
left an impact across the centuries. Prof. Clark notes the opinion of the 
Dominican historian, Henry Denifle: 

"If German mysticism can be explained at all, the true explanation is that 
of Denifle, who connects it with two things: first the obligation imposed 
on the Dominican friars to supervise the nunneries of their Order, and 
secondly the reform of Dominican convents of nuns in Germany about 
1286-7." p. 4. 

Fourteenth Century German mysticism does not, therefore, represent a simple 
flight from the social and political chaos of the day. Undoubtedly social unrest 
did stimulate a more intense search for God, for self and for truly divine and 
human values. But that hunger would have gone unsatisfied had there not been 
available a structure through which the famished were fed. Solid doctrine is a 
perennial exigency in Dominican contemplative life. For this reason, the resurg- 
ence of interest in Meister Eckhart and his works should be of concern to us, 
the nuns of the Order. We have much to learn from the Meister. If he erred in 
some areas, there is still an immense heritage of truth and wisdom in the bulk 
of his writings. God willing, our studies in our own Monasteries will see a new 
awakening of mystical life not unlike the one he helped to shape for his times. 

All quotes from Eckhart in this paper are taken from the 1981 Paulist Press 
edition, MEISTER ECKHART, by Edmund Col ledge, O.S.A. and Bernard McGinn. It of- 
fers the best available English translation of Eckhart's more important works. 
Eckhart: learned and lovable; brilliant yet compassionate of heart; poet and 
philosopher; mystic and theologian. The many-faceted fire of his genius has 
burned low for five centuries. Today it flares again. This paper is only an 
introduction to one of his more readable works, THE COUNSELS ON DISCERNMENT. 
For the most part it avoids controversial themes. 

A note prefacing a medieval copy of the COUNSELS is self-explanatory: 

"These are the conversations that the vicar of Thuringia, the prior of 
Erfurt, Friar Eckhart of the Order of Preachers, held with those young 
men who, conversing, asked him about many things as they sat with each 
other at col lation. " 


The spirit of lively and cordial rapport between Master and students still 
lives on in the COUNSELS. The rule of Silence gives way to fruitful colloquies. 
With a man like Eckhart in the house, you can be sure that while the body fasted, 
the spirit had a feast! The COUNSELS rarely touch on more disputed areas of 
Eckhart's doctrine. That is good. They introduce us to the Meister's torrential 
genius without polemics. Should you wish to go further into his thought, I 
believe you will discover that the COUNSELS have provided a fine foundation 
for meeting both the man and his doctrine. 


The COUNSELS cover a wide field of subject matter but I have limited this paper 
to his teachings on detachment or "nakedness of spirit". Eckhart's metaphysics 
does not make easy reading. Yet it is necessary to consider his notion of Being 
if we are to grasp the "wholistic" character and thrust of his doctrine. What is 
the purpose of radical detachment? 

"Just as no multiplicity can disturb God, nothing can disturb or 
fragment this man, for he is one in that One where all multiplicity 
is one and is one un-mul tip! i city." COUNSEL 6. 

Platonic and Neo-Platonic notions abound here. Yet Eckhart's "One" is not the 
God of Plato, Aristotle or Plotinus. He is not the Absolute Good, or the Absolute 
Self-Sufficient Thought, or the Absolute Source of Light whence emanates a vast 
hierarchy of beings. He is ABSOLUTE BEING. For all that he borrows from the 
ancient classical tradition, Eckhart yet remains more firmly rooted in the 
biblical revelation of the "I AM WHO AM". As one dwells upon Eckhart's works, 
the impression grows of a man who is all of a piece. However lofty his meta- 
physical speculations, they are not irretrievably remote from his very concrete 
COUNSELS for Christian living. The dominant and unifying note is Being. Etienne 
Gilson remarks: 

"There is but one God and this God is Being: that is the cornerstone 
of all Christian philosophy, and it was not Plato, it was not even 
Aristotle, it was Moses who put it in position." 


BEING. The Being Who is God, the One in whom Essence and Existence are One, is 
the same Being from whose "boiling over" in creative love all lesser beings 
proceed. He is distinct in nature from his creatures, yet all that He has made 
mysteriously dwells within Him, for were a creature to depart from that link 
with the Absolute, it would itself cease to be. We live in Him and even partici- 
pate in His own eternal "Coming to be". Is this pantheism? A total identity of 
the nature of God and creature? No, it is not. For Eckhart the distinction of 
natures remains. 

But he is grappling with another facet of the mystery of Being: the Call to 
be one in the One. The way of return, the "reditus", is the path of simplifi- 
cation. Union with God is also unification of the person: "for he is one in 
that One where all multiplicity is one and is one un-mul tipl icity". The return 
is not re-absorption into an impersonal Absolute. Rather, it is return to the 
stillpoint of eternal, dynamic Being-in-Love. Because the Source of Being is 
Love, is Truth, is all of the divine attributes, He becomes the source of a 
real participation in His own perfections. 


Sermon 22 takes up Eckhart's complex notion of divine birth. How are we to 
understand this eternal birth of the creature? 

"Now if you ask me, since I am an only son whom the heavenly Father 
has eternally born, if then I have eternally been a son in God, then 
I say: 'Yes and no. Yes, a son, as the Father has eternally borne 
me, and not a Son, as to being unborn." 

We are life out of Life. What kind of "life" is this? The Meister has nis own 
terminology here. In his COMMENTARY ON EXODUS 16, Eckhart speaks of that 
"bullitia", "boiling over" or "giving birth to Itself" of God's own Being: an 
eternal "glowing in itself, and melting and boiling in and into itself". 
Powerful images for an eternally immanent act. But that strictly immanent act- 
ivity has its complement in an "ebullitia", a "boiling out". The ferment of 
God's own Being spills over into creative love. This is charged language con- 
veying the notion that God is alone the Necessary Being, all else proceeds 
from Him, depends upon his Act, and seeks to return to Him. 

THE MANY AND THE ONE. How far does one go in this matter of reducing the many 
to the One? That is a touchy question in Eckhart. But perhaps a passage from one 
of his Sermons (48) helps clarify the problem. He is speaking of the need for 
radical detachment and places it in the context of "what contents the soul": 

"That is why I say that if a man will turn away from himself and from all 
created things, by so much will you be made one and blessed in the spark 
of the soul, which has never touched either time or place. This spark 
rejects all created things, and wants nothing but its naked God, as he is 
in himself. It is not content with the Father or the Son or the Holy Spi- 
rit, or with the Three Persons so far as each of them persists in his 
properties. I say truly that this light is not content with the divine 
nature's generative and fruitful qualities. I speak in all truth, truth 
that is eternal and enduring, that this same light is not content with 
the simple divine essence in its repose, as it neither gives nor receives." 

This is striking language to express the rejection of images and concepts, mat- 
erial or spiritual, as is taught in the entire tradition of apophatic prayer. It 
is the "spark" which "wants nothing but its naked God, as he is in himself". No 
human concepts or analogies can satisfy the hunger of the heart for Him Who IS. 
Eckhart does not reject the Trinity but the soul's propensity to go to its God by 
conceptual paths. He does not wish to talk ABOUT God, but to be one WITH God. 
And he continues: 

"But it wants to know the source of this essence." 

The context suggests that "to know" here means "knowing" in the full biblical 
sense of intuitive awareness, and not merely speculative striving: 

"It wants to go into the simple ground, into the quiet desert, into which 
distinction never gazed, not the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy 
Spirit. In the innermost part, where no one dwells, there is contentment 


For that light, and there it is more inward than it can be to itself, 
for this ground is a simple silence, in itself immovable, and by this 
immovability all things are moved, all life is received by those who 
in themselves have rational being." 

There, in the "ground", in the "spark", in the "simple silence", God communicates 
His own life to the rational being. Is this God Three? Is He One? Reason alone 
seeks to reduce the many to the One. But revelation intervenes and assures us 
that He Who Is is both Three and One, without change or diminution of Being. 
The "movement", spinning out of images and concepts, is human activity, and 
one Day will cease. T.S. Eliot captures this notion in "Burnt Norton": 

"Desire itself is movement 
not in itself desirable; 
Only the cause and end of movement. 
Timeless and undesiring 
Except in the aspect of time 
Caught in the form of limitation 
Between un-being and being." 

Contentment is "immobility" because it no longer is impelled by desire. Eckhart 
has been speaking about what contents the human spirit. Perhaps his answer comes 
down to this: nothing but the Being of God. He does not reject Trinitarian revela- 
tion ( Cf. his commentaries on "Genesis" and "John" ) but he points to a region of 
contemplation in which there are neither concepts nor desires. Man's speculative 
drive comes, at length, to repose in this dark but beloved Silence. And so it will 
be until we enter into that Light Inaccessible which eye has not seen, nor the 
mind of man dreamt of. Some critics speak of Eckhart's vaulting intellectual pride. 
But it may be truer to say that with all his metaphysical genius, this man knew 
his own limitations. His "contentment" - in this life - rests in darkness. His 
yearnings are those of a lover seeking the Face of the Beloved. But his humility 
is also a lover's as he surrenders self to the Being of the One Loved. 

There is an interesting passage in the writings of Sr. Faustina Kowalska, an 
uneducated mystic of our own times, in which she speaks of that same hunger to 
know God: 

"30. At one time I was considering the Blessed Trinity, about God's 
Being. Anxiously I wanted to know and deepen my knowledge of who this 
God is. At one moment, it seemed as though my soul was snatched up be- 
yond this earth, and I beheld Light Inaccessible in which there were 
three fountains of Light which I could not understand. From this Light 
words in the form of thunder were coming out and were encircling heaven 
and earth. I could not understand any of this and became very grieved. 
From this ocean of Light Inaccessible our Beloved Savior came out in 
inconceivable beauty with His wounds shining brightly. From this bright- 
ness came the sound of a voice saying, "What God is in His own Being, 
not one fathom, neither the mind of angels nor men. Then Jesus said: 
"Recognize God by considering his attributes." After a while Jesus made 
the sign of the cross with His hand and disappeared." DIARY. 

Sister Faustina and Meister Eckhart seem to have had much in common. 

**Please see note at end of paper. 


MAN'S RETURN. But what has all of the above to do with the COUNSELS on detach- 
ment? Eckhart might reply: "Everything". For the "reditus" of the human person 
back to God, Source and End of Being, has been complicated by sin. The road is 
blocked, and only in Christ is a new path open. And so the question arises: 
"What of man's capacity for this return?" Does he have within him the needed 
equipment for the journey? And Eckhart replies in COUNSEL 5: 

"A man's being and ground - from which his works derive their goodness - 
is good when his intention is wholly directed to God." 

And again, 

"The man who has God essentially present to him grasps God divinely, 
and to him God shines in all things' for everything tastes to him 
of God, and God forms himself for this man out of all things. God 
always shines out in him; in him there is a detachment and a turn- 
ing away, and a forming of his God whom he loves and who is present 
to him." COUNSEL 6. 

"Everything tastes to him of God..." "In him there is a detachment and a turning 
away, and a forming of his God whom he loves and who is present to him." Eck- 
hart seems to be evoking the relationship of man with God before the Fall; before 
there was need to consider renunciation or detachment because all was in perfect 
harmony between the Creator and his creatures. When God restores the purity of 
His own image in the ground of the soul, that person is able to "see" purely. 
He "has God essentially present" and "grasps God divinely", i.e., not with the 
perverted eye of one who wishes to rival God. Such a man enjoys and participates 
in God's own vision of reality. "And God saw all that He had made, and it was 
very good." This is a radical and essential form of detachment. It flows from 
a "letting-God-be" through a "letting-go" of the false, the blinding, the not- 
God. In such a person God "always shines out". God is ever "forming Himself" 
within the one who so clearly cleaves to Him. How beautifully Eckhart describes 
it! "Everything tastes to him of God." We have here an extremely positve doc- 
trine and orientation for Christian detachment. The "naked spirit" is naked to 
the "not-God", for nothing of that "god" clings to him. But such a spirit is 
"naked" to the true God because he is utterly transparent to His presence. 


THE MEANS. In COUNSEL 5, Eckhart spoke of man's being and ground and of what con- 
stitutes its goodness. "And man's being and ground - from which his works derive 
their goodness - is good when his intention is wholly directed to God." He calls 
us to an habitual state of being "wholly directed to God". And he continues: 

"Set all your care on that, that God becomes great within you, and that 
all your zeal and effort in everything you do and in everything you 
renounce be directed toward God." 

"Intention". "Ground". "Total effort to make God great within you." We are 
dealing with the very stuff of sanctity in Eckhart's theology. Whatever be the 
degree of the "letting-go" of material or spiritual goods is demanded of us, 
the goal remains union with the One Who dwells in the deepest core of the self. 

■ 48- 

If once we are "set" within God, detachment is an inevitable effect. "From him 
(the man united to God ) everything takes flight that is unlike God and alien to 
him." "If we cling to God, then God and all virtues cling to us." COUNSEL 5. 
Eckhart opens out a splendid vision of interior liberty: nothing "ungodly" 
clings to the detached man. He has regained the freedom of the Garden. 

METHOD? Is there a privileged method for attaining such interior liberty? One 
can almost hear Eckhart cutting away - not unkindly - at the illusions of those 
who place excessive emphasis upon "their" solitude! 

"I was asked: 'Since some people keep themselves much apart from others, 
and most of all like to be alone, and since it is in this and in being 
in church that they find peace, would that be the best thing to do?' 
Then I said: 'No! and see why not! If all is well with a man, then 
truly, wherever he may be, whomever he may be with, it is well with him. 
But if things are not right with him, then everywhere and with everybody 
it is all wrong with him. Whoever really and truly has God, he has him 
everywhere, in the street and in company with everyone, just as much as 
in church or in solitary places or in his cell. But if a man really has 
God, and has only God, then no one can hinder him." COUNSEL 6. 

Action follows being. A man's works do not take him from God, if God is already 
the "Being" of his life. 

"Because he has only God, and his intention is toward God alone, and all 
things become for him nothing but God: that man carries God in his 
eyery work and in e^ery place, it is God alone who performs all the 
man's works." 

Later spiritual theology would not say less of the Transforming Union. But a great 
deal of grace and human effort are needed before such a total surrender to the 
Spirit is achieved. Eckhart is a realist, and he does not deceive his hearers: 

"Zeal and love and a clear apprehension of his own inwardness, and a 
lively, true, prudent and real knowledge of what his disposition is 
concerned with amid things and persons" are essentials. 

"A man cannot learn this by running away, by shunning things and shutting 
himself up in an external solitude; but he must practice a solitude of the 
spirit, wherever or with whomever he is. He must learn to break through 
things and to grasp his God in them and to form him in himself powerfully 
in an essential manner." COUNSEL 6. 

"Break through things" - do not let them bind you - and "form God within in an 
essential manner": this is in a nutshell the Meister's doctrine of detachment. 
His language suggests a metaphysical iconoclast! But he speaks to the "cocooned 
self" in all of us, the too-sheltered ego which needs just such a shattering and 
a breaking. We humans must, in Mercy, be driven into God and His wilderness by 
a most powerful impetus of grace. 


WHERE TO BEGIN? "And therefore if a man who is beginning must do something 
with other people, he ought first to make a powerful petition to God for 
his help, and put him immovably in his heart and unite all his intentions, 
thoughts, will and power to God, so that nothing else than God can take 
shape in that man." COUNSEL 7. 

"What is more, in all things let him acquire nakedness, and let him always 
remain free of things." 

Yet with the shrewd insight of the practiced guide, Eckhart cautions: 

"But at the beginning there must be attenti veness and a careful formation 
within himself, like a schoolboy setting himself to learn." COUNSEL 6. 

Nor should there be self-centered anxiety about one's prayer, as he remarks, 
and not without some humor: 

"Do not upset yourself, whatever form of life or devotion God may give to 
anyone. If I were so good and holy that they had to raise me to the altars 
with the saints, still people would be talking and worrying about whether 
this were grace or nature working in men, and puzzling themselves about 
it. They are all wrong in this. Leave God to work in you, let him do it, 
and do not be upset over whether he is working with nature or above nature; 
for nature and grace are both his." COUNSEL 21. 

AN HABITUAL PROCESS. We are reminded that perfection is not so much an act or 
a state but a process: 

"It is not enough for a man's disposition to be detached for the present 
moment when he wants to be bound to God, but he must have a well-exercised 
detachment from what is past and from what is yet to come..." 

"God never gave himself or gives himself according to anyone else's will. He 
gives himself only by his own will. When God finds someone who is of one 
will with him, he gives himself to him and lets himself be in him, with 
everything that he is... Therefore it is not enough for God that we should 
once surrender ourselves and all that we possess and can do, but we should 
renew this in us again and again, uniting ourselves with him, and emptying 
ourselves of self in all things." COUNSEL 6. 

"For it is not enough for a man to perform the works of virtue, or to prac- 
tice obedience, or to accept poverty or contempt, or that he should in other 
ways humble or detach himself; but one must persist in this, never giving 
up, until one has gained the essence and the foundation of these virtues. 
And we can test if we have them by this: when a man finds himself inclined 
above all else to virtue, and if one performs the works of virtue without 
any special intention of obtaining some just or important matter, acting 
virtuously for virtue's sake, for the love of virtue and no other reason - 
then one possesses virtues perfectly, and not until then." 


• 50- 

The obvious austerity of Eckhart's doctrine needs to be balanced by an aware- 
ness of his genuine, even tender, understanding of human nature's weakness. He 
would have us know that "the inclination to sin is not sin, but to want to sin 
is sin." COUNSEL 10. He would prefer the man who struggles, falls and then 
rises again to one who never experiences temptation and never makes the least 
effort for sanctity: 

"it is this inclination that makes a man ever more zealous to exercise 
himself valiantly in virtue, and impels him mightily toward virtue... 
For the weaker a man finds himself, the more should he protect himself 
with strength and victory." COUNSEL 10. 

The struggle to rectify the human will may prove titanic. But with a "good will" 
victory is assured. Eckhart asks: "When is the will a just will?" And we might, 
by now, guess his reply: 

"The will is complete and just when it is without any self-seeking, and 
when it has forsaken itself, and has been formed and shaped into God's 
will." COUNSEL 10. 

St. Gregory of Nyssa once wrote something similar: "For the perfection of human 
nature consists, perhaps, in its yery growth in goodness." LIFE OF MOSES. 

Where does the love of God have its proper "being"? in the emotions? in works? 

"The place where love has its being is only in the will; the man who has 
more will, he also has more love." COUNSEL 10. 

Sensible consolations are not the "being" of love: 

"For whatever a man would gladly have, that he relinquishes and goes with- 
out for God's love, be it something material or spiritual... A man ought 
gladly be robbed of all that he has for the love of God, and out of love 
he should wholly abandon and deny love's consolations." COUNSEL 10. 

The one who seeks God must know his own weakness. So the task is often not one 
of what may appear to be an heroic feat, but of telling blows aimed at crucial 

"So it is harder at times for a man to endure one little word of contempt, 
which really is insignificant, when it would be easy for him to suffer 
a heavy blow to which he had steeled himself, and it is much harder for 
him to be alone in a crowd than in the desert, and it is often harder for 
him to abandon some little thing than a big one, harder for him to carry 
out a trifling enterprise than one that people would think much more 
important." COUNSEL 17. 

True love is ready for the demands of service to others: 

"If a man were in an ecstasy, as Saint Paul was, and knew that some sick man 
needed him to give him a bit of soup, I should think it far better if you 


would abandon your ecstasy out of love, and show greater love in caring 
for the other in his need." COUNSEL 6. 

DESOLATION AND ARIDITY. Eckhart wishes to put us on guard against the tempta- 
tion to judge love in terms of consolations: 

"Yet there is something else, which is a manifestation and a deed of love. 
Often this appears plainly as inwardness and devotion and jubilation; and 
yet this is not always the best that could be. For it may be that it does 
not come from love, but perhaps it only comes from nature that a man ex- 
periences such savor and sweetness. It may be sent down from heaven, or it 
may be borne in from the senses. And those who have more of this are not 
always the best men; for even if such a gift be truly from God, our Lord 
often gives it to such people to entice and draw them on, and also to make 
them, through it, very withdrawn from others. Yet these same people, when 
later they have obtained more love, may then well not experience so much 
emotion and feeling, and from that is well seen that they have love, if 
they cleave faithfully and steadily to God without such a prop." 


And a prudent word for those who are enduring aridity: 

"There is no advice so good as to find God where one has left him; so do 
now, when you cannot find him, as you were doing when you had him; and in 
that way you will find him. But a good will never loses or seeks in vain 
for God... This is what God looks for in all things, that we surrender 
our will." COUNSEL 7. 

Little wonder that some of his hearers doubted their ability to follow the Meister 
to the heights, and yielded to discouragement! But for these also his words are 
sound and kindly: 

"Now you say: 'I am afraid that I am not working as hard as I ought at this, 
and that I am not keeping it up as I should.' Accept it as suffering, and 
suffer it patiently, take it as an exercise, and be at peace... Why should 
we not be at peace, whatever he may give us or whatever we may lack?... So 
do not complain about anything; all you need to complain about is that you 
go on complaining and that nothing satisfies you! All that you should com- 
plain about is that you have too much." COUNSEL 23. 

FREEDOM. Eckhart surely spells out the need for a complete self-stripping of in- 
ordinate love. In COUNSEL 23 he asks, in the name of those for whom "images and 
works, praises and thanks, or anything else he could do, have departed", how such 
a person can cooperate with God in bringing exterior and interior works into 

"The answer is that there is still one work that remains proper and his 
own, and that is the annihilation of self. Yet this annihilation and di- 
minution of the self, however great a work it may be, will remain uncom- 
pleted unless it is God who completes it in the self. Humility only be- 
comes perfected when God humbles man with man's cooperation." COUNSEL 23. 

Such "annihilation" is in fact re-creation. With all the spiritual masters, Eck- 
hart stresses the role of humility in such a work. "For all our being consists 
in nothing but becoming nothing". Finite being before the Face of God IS as no- 
thing. The doctrine is radical because the gift is without limit: 


"Therefore because God wants to give us himself and all things as our own 
free possessions, so he wants to deprive us, utterly and completely, of 
all possessiveness." COUNSEL 23. 

There is in such a doctrine a great reverence for man as such, and the gift of 
freedom with which he has been endowed: 

"Man must be free, and the master of all his actions, unimpeded and uncon- 
strained. Grace does not destroy nature; it perfects it. Glory does not 
destroy grace; it perfects it, for glory is perfected grace. Therefore it 
is not in God to destroy anything that has being, but rather he is a per- 
fector of all things. So we should not destroy in ourselves any good thing 
however small it may be, even for the sake of something great, but we 
should rather bring it to the greatest perfection." COUNSEL 22. 


A plunge into Eckhart is a plunge into deep waters. We have dealt with only 
one small part of the Meister's extant works, and with only one theme in the 
COUNSELS. But hopefully it will be enough to stimulate interest in this Prince 
of German mystics. If Eckhart 1 s writings are meeting a contemporary need, per- 
haps this is also due to the sheer power of his contemplative gaze, exploding in 
rich, complex poetic images ( sometimes like a rocket in the night! ) in order 
to express and sustain the power of his thought. He calls us back to our Origin 
and End. 

Eckhart summons to the heights of human and Christian dignity. Yes. And even 
more, he allures us into the wilderness where the bride, once so wilful and 
unfruitful, finds again her Spouse. The Meister's COUNSELS ON DISCERNMENT read 
as one facet of his own abiding with the Word of Life; the Word of Wisdom from 
whom all wisdom flows. Eckhart was a man who had learned well one of life's most 
difficult lessons. Religious life is meant to support the search for God in 
brotherly unity and peace. But often it turns out to be a struggle to keep one's 
own integrity. And never, perhaps, is this more the case than in areas of 
intellectual groundbreaking. Yet where grace does rule, the wery struggle be- 
comes the occasion for support as we lean less and less on self, others, things, 
situations, and more and more on God. If Eckhart has taught us only this, has he 
not done us a great service of charity? In truth, though, he teaches a great 
deal more. 

But perhaps one word of caution should be added. As one reads further in 
Eckhart, one cannot help but realize that his doctrine, at face value, sounds 
like pantheism. He is not always careful to distinguish the natures of God and 
men, or the type of union possible between Creator and creature. His teaching on 
the "Birth of the Word" can lead to difficulties. So he must be read with care 
and with attention. It is possible to read him in an orthodox sense, and we 
believe his own declarations on the subject leave no doubts about his good 
intentions. If you look for trouble, you will find it. If you look with an 
"interpretive eye", you will draw your own truth from these teachings. Most of 
what we have is the record taken down by others, often from memory. This may 
account for some of the obscurities. So, too, the fact that he was "creating" a 
language for the ideas he wished to convey. All in all, Eckhart is worth the 
effort provided he is read carefully. 

Sister Mary Francis, O.P. 
Farming ton 


* A note on the Trinitarian symbols in Eckhart and Sr. Faustina. 

"The repetition, namely, that it says 'I am who am', indicates the purity of af- 
firmation excluding all negation from God. It also indicates a reflexive turning 
back of his existence into itself and upon itself, and its dwelling and remain- 
ing fixed in itself. It further indicates a 'bullitia' or giving birth to itself 
-a glowing in itself, and melting and boiling in and into itself... Therefore, 
chapter one of John says, 'In him was life' ( Jn. 1:4 ). 'Life' bespeaks a type 
of pushing out by which something swells up in itself and first breaks out to- 
tally in itself, each part into each part, before it pours itself forth and 
boils over on the outside ( 'ebullitia' ) COMMENTARY ON EXODUS 16. 

Under the image of "life" - seething, boiling, melting, glowing, utterly full 
LIFE - what does Eckhart tell us about the Blessed Trinity? 

1. In God the purity of affirmation excludes all negation: He IS Being. 

2. His Being, in which essence and existence are one, is infinitely dynamic, 

necessary and self-sufficient: "a reflexive turning back of his existence 
into itself and upon itself" and yet without change: "remaining fixed in 

3. This eternally immanent activity is a "giving birth" in which "each part 
breaks forth" as buds on a spring branch. So there is unity of nature, yet 
some kind of distinction. 

4. This Act "pours itself forth and boils over on the outside": creation is an 
effect and a participation in God's own nature and activity. 

There is nothing here which suggests the properties and attributes we associ- 
ate with the distinction of Persons in the Trinity. But what of Sr. Faustina? 
Does she tell us more or less? - Under the image of "three fountains of Light" 
from which "words like thunder" come forth, she also suggests the unity of 
nature and some form of distinction. She also sees a "coming forth" from this 
Light Inaccessible, in the form of "words"" the creative activity of God. But 
there is not a hint here, either, of distinction of Persons or properties within 
the Trinity. Both of these great mystics seem to have found "contentment", a 
certain cessation of their hunger to know God, in images of Life and Light which 
hide infinitely more than they reveal. For both, the BEING of God remains 
inaccessible. And for both, Christ is the Teacher, par excellence. But Eckhart, 
the scholastic theologian and poetic genius, paints his picture in colors more 
shocking and tones more vibrant. God adapts his vision to Sr. Faustina's hunger 
and also to her more limited capacity to express what she has experienced. Yet 
both are left - in peace - with the awesome mystery of the divinity. 

• 54- 


We are put on this earth for a little 
space that we may learn to bear the 
beams of love -William Blake - 

With good reason one might question the need for any more writings on 
Contemplative prayer or even of Monastic Search itself since so many 
capable people have already written so admirably on all of these topics, 
and books on the subject are endless. But, then, as I pass by the board 
which we called "From the Mountaintop" on which we post various high- 
lights from our "Moses Days", and I read a verse of Scripture or a thought 
that I have heard before, a new grace strikes - a deeper awareness. This 
is so true of Scripture passages but, I think, nonetheless true of passages 
which a Sister has spent time, prayer and reflection over. This proves 
the point that we as contemplatives should be able to express our thoughts 
even more so than those whose duty it is to just write about the subject. 
Monastic Search and Conference Communications are, I feel, the tools which 
the Holy Spirit wants to use to help us to begin sharing with one another. 
Sharing anything spiritually with the larger group can pose great difficulties 
and is a rather sensitive thing, yet is not this just what renewal is all 
about? Even if most of these articles fall on deaf ears or fail to be of 
any help, they will still have fulfilled their purpose for the contributors 
since study is really its own reward and the prayer and time will be more 
than well spent. 

As I was thinking about the difficulty of sharing I thought of what Thomas 
Merton says in THE SIGN OF JONAS: "...and yet, what can I show them (the 
novices and young monks), or what can I share with them? There is so 
little one can communicate". 1 Since Christ lives His mysteries differently 
in each of us and for the most part we are mysteries to ourselves and to 
each other, this thought in itself should give us a deeper reverence for 
each other. In religious life the modern tendency is to feel that one is 
not good enough, or that it is pride and vainglory to bother or even to 
speak of what God is doing in our midst; yet, it is God Who is the author 
and whatever He does is His work? our job is to allow Him to do His work 
in us and in others. Could it not be true that the devil is using this tool 
to keep souls from finding God? 

Since we are celebrating the Holy Year of our Redemption it might be of 
special interest to contrast what Merton wrote on the topic of the Holy 
Year 1950 with the words of our Holy Father John Paul II, at the commence- 
ment of the Holy Year, March 25, 1983. Merton writes: "The fact that the 
Holy Father has proclaimed this a Holy Year means that he has turned it 
over to Our Lady and that she will make her influence felt in many ways 
that will make us glad and, with her near us, we will run in the ways of 
God's commandments. I had not planned to speak of her yet to the novices 
in orientation. But I was talking about grace and it would be foolish to 
talk of grace without talking of her. Instantly the love of her filled 
the room. Wide-eyed attention. You could feel the quiet. There was a 
different sense of peace-deeper than before; the peace of children who 
are at home and satisfied." 4. 


Our Holy Father began with the verse from Isaiah 7:14: "The virgin shall 
be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel". "And thus 
it comes to pass. The Sign is fulfilled and takes shape in the mystery 
of the Annunciation. We know this shape well. We deeply love the 
angel's Annunciation. We return to it three times a day with the Angelus 
prayer. It is the invocation on our lips. It is the song in our hearts. 
It continually takes us back to that Annunciation to Mary, on whose 
Solemnity, which links the Son and the Mother in the mystery of the Incar- 
nation, we also see the most fitting moment for beginning the Year of the 
Redemption." ' 

This is the secret of all contemplation: we will be molded by Mary into 
the likeness of her Son. She, the first contemplative, the one who will 
show us the way at this difficult period of history. All who will open 
themselves to her motherly teaching will find again what Dominic, Catherine 
and innumerable others have already found. With good reason can we hope 
for a great spiritual explosion akin to the advances of science and tech- 
nology. One of our recent canonized saints, St. Maximilian Kolbe/is just 
one proof in point. Everything he did was in and through Mary and he 
sealed this love with his blood. 

I was thinking that in the 16th Century our own nuns were blessed with 
many capable and willing spiritual directors, this is necessary at all 
times; nevertheless, it is always the Holy Spirit Himself Who directs. 
In many ways we have greater helps than they did with all the wealth of 
books and tapes. Our Monastic Search and Conference Communica tions 
together with that new clause in our new Constitutions on sharing are 
just what the Holy Spirit is using to bring us to holiness and who knows 
but, perhaps, in time we will even get to the point where we can direct 
each other. With prayer all things are possible. 

Since Merton is one of the great mystics of our time I would like to use 
another quote, not from Merton however, but about Merton. Douglas V. 
Steere writes: "The monk leaves the world only to listen to the deepest 
voices that he has left behind. Contemplative prayer for Merton was a 
stripping bare and emptying, above all a seeking in one's heart; or as 
THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING puts it: ' penetrate the deep dread that 
the presence within the Cloud of Unknowing throws us into, we must strike 
with a sharp dart of longing love - and do not leave it no matter what 
happens . ' " *i 

This longing desire is described by Catherine in her Dialogue: "Atonement 
is made, then, through the desire of the soul who is united to me, infinite 
Good, in proportion as love is perfect both in the one who prays with 
desire and in the one who receives. So feed the flame of your desire and 
let not a moment pass without crying out. for these others in my presence 
with humble voice and constant prayer." 

Catherine's Dialogue is a treasure of wisdom and a safe and sure guide in 
the ways of prayer. In the past it has tended to be overlooked mostly by 
her own brothers and sisters, which seems a great pity since St. Teresa 
of Avila made such good use of it. For most people St. Catherine herself 
is such a virile woman and speaks in strong language when the topic is sin 
and then we tend to stop at the person and miss the message. 


These thoughts on contemplative prayer are well summed up by modern day 
writers such as the great contemplative Jacques Maritain: 

"Contemplation, in the same way as what is called more in 
general the mystical life, depends essentially on the 
Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and on the divine mode of action 
which they communicate to man. Theologians tell us that the 
spiritual man is he who lives habitually under the rule of 
the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. And although, in one case or 
another, this or that gift may be manifested in a predominant 
fashion, the gift of Wisdom, which is the highest of all-- 
itself being properly speaking the gift of contemplation-- 
must always in some way rule the contemplative, whether by 
completely dominating and drawing to itself everything in his 
nature (and in that case causing the soul to live in accordance 
with the pure and typical forms of the contemplative states), 
or by at least spreading its superior influence over the 
whole activity of the soul, thus giving him a more or less 
advanced participation in mystical contemplation. 

Contemplation is thus the domain of the liberty of the Spirit 
who breathes where he wills and no man knows whence he comes 
or whither he goes. And it implies that the soul advancing 
in renunciation and detachment submits with docility to the 
Spirit's guidance. 

Contemplation is the fruit of the indwelling of the Blessed 
Trinity in the soul and of the invisible mission of the Son 
and the Holy Spirit. 

It raises man to a knowledge and love of God which are all 
spiritual, in spirit and in truth, stripped of the sensible 
and the human, transcending the order of images and ideas 
and therefore incomprehensible and ineffable, and intro- 
ducing the soul into the luminous cloud of divine things. 

Contemplation may be dry and painful. Serious advance is 
indeed impossible without passing one way or another through 
the purification of the "Nights". 

It is to Jesus Crucified, our Head, that contemplation tends 

to conform us; the fruit of Wisdom is gathered on the tree 

of the Cross. The Sanctifying Spirit is also the Sacrificing 

Finally, contemplation should not be loved for its own sake 
but for God's. Not the joys of contemplation, but union with 
God through love - THAT is our end." b 


1. THE SIGN OF JONAS by Thomas Merton, p. 251 

2. " " " " " " " p. 262 

3. L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO, March 28, 1983 


4. CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER by Thomas Merton, Foreward 

5. THE DIALOGUE, p. 32 

6. PRAYER AND INTELLIGENCE by Jacques Maritain, pp. 19-21 

Sister Mary Roseanne 
Lufkin, Texas 


Do ^ot rest 

of *pur uv^ 'Witia Coo 

^r tunt back 

tlVttil X/0U fl<VV4 reached 

/the pUfJll^c^t 
oj your Umm 

St. Albert 'tna &ra,e& 


Some time ago I volunteered to do a paper for Monastic Search 
on the subject of Intercession. Why Intercession? Why not just "prayer"? 
True, I had copied into my notebook some words of wisdom on the subject 
of intercession that I found among various writings, but they hardly 
constituted a "study' of the subject , It was a bit presumptuous, I admit, 
to plunge into this topic so boldly. And anyway, notes or not, WHY 
Intercession ? 

The fact is, the subject of intercession has been pricking me for 
some time... ever since 1977, when three people from the Community of 
God's Love in Rutherford, New Jersey made an appearance in our parlor 
in order to share with us and inquire from U3 "professional pray-ers" 
about the prayer of intercession. They were young, in their twenties or 
early thirties, two women and one man. Each of them had been entrusted 
by their community with the particular role of Intercessor, which was 
undertaken by them as a team, using the rosary when they prayed together, 
and inserting spontaneous prayer with it. Before they arrived to share with 
us, since I knew the object of their visit ahead of time, I was sure 
that I (at least) would have some enlightenment to impart to these lay 
persons. However, when they arrived I quickly realized, far from know- 
ing the "answer'^ I had not yet really grasped the question! The serious- 
ness of these committed Christians about intercession was a far cry from 
the "I'll keep you in my prayers" sort of thing. Their questioning and 
replies to their own questions stunned me, for I had been confronted by 
something very pertinent to my vocation. In light of their insight and 
experience with this form of prayer I concluded that there was something 
lacking in my own understanding and approach to intercession,, I was 
left with the conviction that I must search into the matter ... .INTERCESSION . 

I suppose the first question I came to recognize as I faced the 
new enigma of intercession is this: Does the intention to intercede make 
one less "contemplative"? Should intercession or petition in the life 
of the contemplative be repressed in favor of "pure" prayer? 

This perplexity has led me in varied directions for a resolution; 
happily, I found my "answers" even when I was not actually investigating. 
Divine Providence has guided this monastic search. At this stage of my 
"inquiry" I feel that the appropriate answer to the question above is: 
No, it does not make one less contemplative to occupy one's self with the 
prayer of intercession. For the Dominican nun contemplation and inter- 
cession are not in opposition. 

Our constitutions easily confirm this, since they propose a very 
definite apostolic purpose for the nuns. The very first sentences as 
well as many others in the Nuns' Constitutions have a very clear apostolic 
thrust which align our prayer with the preaching of the friars. And 
Father Fernandez explicitly interprets our position: "...their life, and 
contemplation, as far as they are really and truly Dominican, are from, 
the beginning, of their very nature and essentially ordered to the 
apostolate . " *- 



It seems to me that this apostolic commission to the Dominican 
"contemplative" Nun clearly assigns her the role of Intercessor. She is 
called to_ intercession, personally, explicitly,, Our Dominican charism 
cf contemplation, born out of the need for evangelization, is a restless 
contemplation, if I may suggest, in as much as it will not rest in seeking . 
God for oneself only There m u s t be a spending, a sharing of the 
gift of contemplation: "You received without paying, give without pay." 
(Matt. 10 : 3) Our knowledge of God, our experience of God, our life together 
in God centeredness, our contemplation can, it is true, all overflow into 
the Church and have a spiritually vivifying effect; this ;':. the fruit of ■ 
all true contemplative activity be it monastic or otherwise. However, the 
Dominican goal of contemplation focuses beyond contemplation alone and 
this is true for the nuns as well as for the Priarso For us it is con- 
sistent with our charism to yield- not only an "overflow" but to "pump" 
our resources of prayer by directing and developing our prayer in interces-| 
sory activity, which is a prophetic call, 

"When we talk about ourselves .. .as contemplatives we come face to face 
with the problem that we are not more than contemplatives", laments Thomas! 
Me r ton who identifies the prophetic vocation as the aspect that makes the! 
monk (or nun) more than a contemplative . \SEile Thomas Merton further 
states that "the prophetic charism is a gift of God, not a duty of man", 
there is a duty that may be the wedge opening the way for the prophetic 
spirit, I suggest that a deepening and cultivation of intercessory prayer 
can dispose one for the prophetic spirit, or charism. It is a prayer deep-, 
ly reliant upon the enlightenment and action of the Holy Spirit and it is 
sustained by a charism which is specifically identified with our Order* 
For is it not stated in the Basic Constitution of the Crder, that there 
is a "special prophetic function" for the Order "to announce the Gospel 
of Jesus Christ ... "-2- This "prophetic function" need not be viewed as per- I 
taining only to the Friars or those who may be associated with the Order 
in teaching etc. The nuns have their own "prophetic" role to fulfill. 

The authentic prophetic presence is manifest as a "living witness" 
to Christ where the life of faith and charity, sacrifice, praise and an 
unerring sensitivity to the true faith are the fruits of the anointing 
presence of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ. It is in the documents 
of the Second Vatican Council that all the "Holy people of God" are 
proclaimed sharers in "Christ's prophetic office". And this prophetic 
office, shared by the baptized, is operative for the faithful Christian ' 
when "...this sense of faith. .. aroused and sustained by the Spirit of 
truth. . .accepts not the word of men but the very Word of God" . . .and . . . 
"clings without fall to the faith once delivered to the saints, penetrates 
it more deeply by accurate insights, and applies it more thoroughly to 
life." 1 * 

"If only the whole ooople of Yahweh were prophets, and Yahweh gave 
hi3 Spirit to them all. "* was the wish of ;,:oses; and yet, it is in truth, 
the potential of all the people of Cod in the anointing they share in Chris 
For "the Dominican nun this heritage need not remain a latent force. She 
is endowed with this participation in Christ's prophetic office through 
Eaptism and she ia called to bring it to fruition by her profession. 



The prophet Intercedes. In the case of Abraham it was his inter- 
cessors power that earned him the title of prophet.* 5 ' The prophet knows 
by "accurate insight" the claims to be made in Chris is name. "Ask and I 
will give you the nations for your heritage , the ends of the earth for 
your domain." (ps 2:3) Ideally, this can be the nun's portion received as 
intercessor, a prophetic understanding of what and how to pray, given 
the anointing of the Holy Spirit. She stands before God not as one whose 
personal desires have urged her to receive some gain, in the manner de- 
scribed by Beatrice Eruteau in Contemplative Review; "People who first 
begin to pray in 3cme relation to Jesus frequently start off asking something 
of him. They begin with the prayer of petition. . .People bring their 
problems, "their needs and beseech Jesus to do something about them... the 
one who prays Is more interested In getting the job done than interested 
in Jesus. Jesus comes into it as the one who does the job... the sense 
of personal need and personal gratification. . .being so intense that it 
is not possible to be very aware of any other perspecti\e or larger field 
of meaning."* Our prophetic charisra transcends this approach, it is pre- 
cisely in the "larger f,ield of meaning" that our intercession is operative. 
Needs? All our jieeds are for a reality beyond ourselves. This is 
intercession. Ultimately, it seems to me that one must be a contemplative 
in order to intercede. And yet, on the other hand, intercede and you will 
find that you are led to contemplation. In either case self-love Is the 
hindrance/that must always be weeded out. This is explained well in the 
writings of St. Catherine, noted by Sr. Mary O'Driscoll O.P.: 

"The self-love which causes those who are "servants" to love God and 
neighbor imperfectly causes their intercession to be imperfect too. Be- 
cause it diminishes the light of reason and of faith, self-love also dimin- 
ishes the ability to see persons and situations as God see3 them, and con- 
sequently it is difficult for "servants" to know how to intercede. Self- 
love is the cause of their not being able to recognize God's providence at 
work, with the result that they see evil as good and good as evil, not 
understanding that God's providence gives everything for the creature's 
salvation and sanctif ication. " & 

An ideal example of constant intercessory prayer is our Holy Father 
Dominic. Indeed, St. Dominic exercises the prophetic charism. The 
vrords of Abraham Eeschel, writ ing on the Old Testament prophets,, describe 
with equal validity our holy father's commitment to intercessory prayer: 

"What does the prophet feel? The prophet is not only a censurer and 
accuser, but also a defender and consoler. Indeed, the attitude he takes 
to the tension that obtains between God and the people is characterized 
by a dichotomy. In the presence of God he takes the part of the people. 
In the presence of the people he takes the part of God." 

"Prophetic sympathy is a response to transcendent sensibility. It 
is not, like love, an attraction to the divine Being, but the assimilation 
of the prophet's emotional life to the divine, an assimilation of function, 
not of being. The emotional experience of the prophet becomes the focal 
point fbr the prophet's understanding of God. The prophet hears God's 
VDice and feels His heart." 

"...his true greatness is his ability to hold God and man in a single 
thought , " % 


These vibrant words portray the Intimate reality of the one //ho 
intercedes under the impulse of the prophetic char ism. It was certainly 
true of Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine. Intercession calls for some- 
thing more intense than a casual mention of a worthwhile intention, 


"He shall cry to me" says the Lord "and I will hear him", and Saint 

Bernard says: "A most sweet law this, which places the right to be heard • 
in the very cry of petition." But he warns that a hearing may be refused tc 
the soul if it neglects to "cry", "either not praying at all or praying 
with tepidity and indevotion." 

"A loud cry in the ears of God is the ardour of strong desire. On 
the other hand, a weak desire resembles the subdued sound of a whisper. . 
How snail this penetrate the clouds? How shall it be heard in heaven''" 

The "loud cry of strong, desire" might also correspond to Saint Paul's 
word in the letter to the Romans 3:25: "The Spirit himself intercedes Tor 
U3 with groans beyond all utterance". Frank Sheed interprets these words 
thus : 

"St. Paul seems to be saying that when man is asking for something 
intensely difficult, something that seems almost beyond reason, he must 
put his whole self into the asking with an intensity of self-giving which 
would be beyond his power if the Holy Spirit did not pour his own power 
into him". li; 

It is faith that will sustain us in this spirital wrestling, this 
daring role one assumes as an Intercessor. St. Augustine says, some- 
where, that where faith fails prayer fails; most especially Is It true 
of intercession- But intercession is al30 an act of hope and it kindles 
love, love for God and love for one's neighbor, and in 'a special way it 
increases one's love for the Church. One possesses the Holy Spirit, says 
3t. Augustine, as much as one loves the Church', and Saint^Teresa of 
Avila assures U3 v/ith equal conviction: 

"Do not imagine, my daughters, that it i3 useless to be thus contin- 
ually occupied in praying to God for the defenders of His Church; take 
care not to share the opinions of certain people to whom it seems hard 
not to pray much for themselves. Believe me, no prayer is tetter or more 
profitable than that of which I speak (for the Church)." 13 - 

"Suppose everyone were convinced that prayer has to penetrate the 
whole of life, that we must pray at all times, that is to say that our 
will interceding with God In Christ for the welfare of all has to be a 
fcrmative power in our daily life, that the prayer of the member of Christ 
interceding for the whole Church has to be transformed into a penitential 
life, into patience, love, fast ing. . .Suppose everyone were convinced.., 
what would happen?" ask3 Karl Rahner. "Many things..." he says. For 
..."the '.Vord of God became flesh, ...therefore he through whom everything 
comes into being has become very approachable and easily moved." And 
Father Rahner insists, "There should be more stubborn and humble, more 
insistent and urgent supplication among Christians ;.. .For the prayer cf 
petition, robust and straightforward, is a power in the world and In Its 
history, in heaven and on earth... Such prayer, then, which enfolds all 
others with oneself in the community of sin and salvation, Is a proceeding 


which is absolutely essential to Christianity „ ., to foster it must there- 
fore signify the accomplishment of an 'essential Christianity 1 ". 't- 

Saint Gregory has been noted somewhere as saying that there are 
some things that God is prepared to give us only on the condition that 
we ask for them. It takes a certain alertness to the ways of Divine 
Providence, I believe, to fulfill one's intercessory duties so that prayer 
arises and one actually appeals for God's action to merit his interference, 

The scene of the Wedding Feast at Cana comes to my mind, to give an 
example of this. Mary was, no doubt, hovering over the supply of wine be- 
fore the last drop was taken. In this she abandoned herself to Divine 
Providence, she kept quiet until it was gone, then she spoke to Jesus. 
She informed him in such a way "that he read into it the request for some 
special intervention on his part. Jesus tells her "My hour is not yet 
come." Frank Sheed interprets the scene thus: 

"Evidently he means that the moment has not yet come to show his 
power to the eyes of men. Then two surprises: Mary knows that he will 
show it all the same. One minute his hour had not come, the next it had. 

"Surely the Holy Spirit was at work. ..( Jesus ' ) certainty that his hour 
had not yet come would have meant that the Holy Spirit had not yet told 
him that he was to show his power publicly. And now, suddenly, his mother 
asks him for a miracle... 

"Mary could have asked him to work a miracle thus publicly, only 
at the command of the Holy Spirit: it was not in her nature to thrust bright 

ideas of her own on her Son. She asked him as she was bid, and the 
Holy Spirit moved him to do what she asked..." ,5 

Mary Interceded in what was really a very "this -worldly" situation. 
Yet Jesus was willing to be led to act in a Divine manner because of Mary's 
Interest. Could we not assume that the Holy Spirit might similarly 
impose on Jesus through others, like you and me? Would this not Insinuate 
some measure of "inspired" self-will, to present one's own desires, one's 
ov/n preference? Mary did just that- and the Holy Spirit utilized this 
personal sympathy of Mary. Her action did not interfere with her abandon- 
ment to God's will; she dared to believe even when Divine Wisdom, in the 
person of her sen, declared her request "impossible". 

In all our intercessions, prayers answered and prayers that wait in 
darkness, persevering, trusting that God is acting in His wisdom in a 
hidden yet effective way, we know, as Father Rahner reminds us that "None 
of us produces grace, freshly causing something not yet there, bringing it 
into being. But we are intermediaries and in this sense mediators of grace 
for each other, and so we shall be held to account before the judgement 
seat of God, whether, within the measure of our possibilities, in our 
situation in life, through the gifts and talents we were endowed with, we 
did for others what we ought to have done, as intermediaries on behalf of 
our neighbors." . . . 

"Of course there are differences of kind and degree in the matter, for 
God assigns his grace to each as he wills, including the gift and grace of 
being a blessing in the salvation of others."^* 

liiith that let me close this brief examination of intercessory prayer 
and our role as Dominican nuns called to intercession. I hope I have not 


rr.ade any great theological blunders in proposing that we be prophets, i am 
only conveying a certain reflection on the matter which seems correct 
as far as I can discern. At this time I have to confess that ray 
accumulation of data has increased sufficiently to have offered here 
only a sampling of what I have found helpful on this subject of inter- 
cession; actually it is not widely written of. However, Si3ter Mary 
C'Driscoll O.F., in writing of Saint Catherine of Siena for her doctoral 
thesis, chose the topic of intercession. She has entitled it: MERCY FOR 
THE 'i'iQRLP , A Study of Intercession in the J&te and Vjr it ings of Catherine 
of Siena. This, study is most excellent. . Sister Mary ia hoping to have, 

it published in beck form which will be obtainable by all. 

She has systematically and" artfully presented the subject rind, 

since it is so full of insight and contemplative spirituality) I know all 
would benefit greatly from reading it when it is available. 

Let the final word for this paper and for all our prayers be a word 
of thanksgiving: 

To Hira who listens to our prayers and constantly surprises us with 
His unimagined generosity and faithfulness: Praise and thanks be to 
JESUS CHRIST, now and forever; Amen. 

Sister Xarie of the Incarnation 


1. Letter of Fr. Anicetus Fernandez to the nuns. BOOK OF THE CONSTITUTIONS OF THE NUNS 
1971, page L. 

2- IS THE ^CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE' FINISHED? j Thomas Merton; Monastic Studies #7 1969, Pg. 11 

3. BASIC CONSTITUTIONS OF THE ORDER, SV (Book of the Const, of the Nuns, page 5) 

4. DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II: The Church (Lumen Gentium) No. 12 ; Abbott / Gallagher editors 

5. Numbers 11:29 

6. Genesis 18; 22-32 (see Dictionary of the Bible; Xavier Leon-Dufour, page AA5) 

7. INSIGHT AND MANIFESTATION ; Beatrice Bruteau; Contemplative Review, Fall '83; page 21 

8. MERCY FOR THE WORLD, A Study of Intercession in the Life and Writings of Catherine of 
Siena; Mary O'Driscoll (Doctoral Thesis obtained through private source) Page 256-257 

9. THE PROPHETS Vol. I; Abraham J. Heschel; Harper Colophon Books; page 26,421 

10. Psalm 90 (91) verse 15 


12. TO KNOW CHRIST JESUS; p. J. Sheed (1962); Sheed & Ward, page 294- 

13. THE WAY GF PERFECTION, Ch. Ill; St. Teresa of Avila 
U. THEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS Vol III; Karl Rahner; The Apostolate of Prayer, page 209-219 

15. TO KNOW CHRIST JESUS: F. J. Sheed, Sheed & Ward (1962) page 125 

16. MARY MOTHER GF THE LORD; Karl Rahner; Herder & Herder 1963; Mediatrix of Graces P. 97; 99. 



Our Father Dominic is for us the most radiant example of the kind of prayer to 
which we are called as Dominicans. Dominic was a deeply contemplative man, a 
man known for his equilibrium, for his peacefulness of spirit and compassion. 
From his earliest years he lived in the presence of the Word, which formed him 
in contemplative love and unceasing prayer. Vicaire says of Dominic, "the deep- 
est source of his inspiration. . .was , as in the case of the Apostles, his love of 
Jesus Christ." 1) People who knew Dominic loved him, admired him, and were attrac- 
ted to him. This was the case because the peace that pervaded his life is the 
deepest desire of every human heart. God extends to each of us the invitation to 
unity, peace, and wholeness. The reality that Dominic experienced in his life of 
joy and union with the Lord Jesus, is the gift which the Father wills to extend 
to all his children. Dominic's vision and spirit has been given to us as an in- 
heritance. Each of us will bring to this inheritance a unique contribution. 
Dominic's love for Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, called him forth and so we 
his daughters will also be called forth in that same Word, to enter the mystery 
of Divine Love in an intimate relationship of "reciprocal giving" within the life 
of the Trinity. 

The theme of this article is UNCEASING PRAYER, prayer as a way of life, rather 
than as the isolated acts of the praying person which we often term "prayer." 
Let us define unceasing prayer as "integrity of life by which we dwell continually 
through all that we are and therefore all that we do, in the presence of the 
Indwelling God." Prayer, then, is above all else, not something we do but instead 
a living relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Two realities form the whole basis of this paper, the mystery of the presence of 
the Indwelling God, and the mystery of ourselves as "Image." These two realities 
are united in the secret abyss or chamber of our heart--a theme often repeated in 
Monastic literature and in the writings of our Dominican Mystics. 

The scope of this paper is very broad. I have chosen to present the whole spiritual 
life under the aspect of a journey to our inner being. Any one of the subheadings 
could very profitably become a study in itself. Let us begin by considering our- 
selves as "Image." 



"What makes us unique, distinct in all creation 
is this special relationship as Image. We bear 
his image in our very mode of existence and there- 
fore, so to speak, belong in a 'species' similiar 
to that of the Divine." 2) 

The doctrine of man and woman as the image of God is a thoroughly Biblical one. 
The Book of Genesis tells us that God created us in integrity and harmony giving 
to humanity a very special relationship to the Godhead and to all creation. We 
stood at the pinnacle of material creation as knowing and loving beings. Created 
in the Image of God we were called by the Divine Will to know and to communicate 
with him in an intimate love-relationship. Freedom and dominion in a special way 
constitute our likeness to the Lord of Creation. The human person is a mysteri- 
ous combination of two worlds: immersed in the flesh but animated by the spirit; 
belonging to the world yet transcending the universe because of our capacity for 
union with God. We are a paradox, an embodied spirit, both temporal and eternal. 
Our bodiliness is measured by time. Our spirit goes beyond time to that which is 
proper to spirit, a permanence, an eternal way of being. Humankind, called from 
the beginning to participate in th~e Sacred, can b~e defined fully only as a 
relationship to the Holy. 

To image is to be like, to resemble. At the deepest center of our being that 
image is most perfect and from this center there radiates outward the desire, 
the longing, the call to imitate and to conform to the image we reflect. As a 
people divinely called, our becoming is grounded in reflecting ever more deeply 
the Divine Reality. 3) 

Our whole existence, then, can be defined in terms of "relationship:" relationship 
to God in whom alone our human spirit can find completion, and in the ordered 
relationship to others and the universe that was the Lord's will for us. God 
traced his image in the spirit of our first parents, writing this relationship 
forever into our very nature. 

"The goal toward which human life needs to move 
is the realization of our Godlikeness in a 
living relationship with God which is finally 
vision." 4) 

Before sin all these elements that make up our person and nature were in harmony. 
Through sin this relationship to God was broken off, resulting in our alienation 
from God and from ourselves and all creation. Man and woman entered into the 
"land of unlikeness." 5) The situation in which we now live is one of disharmony. 
In our humanity we remain the image of God but that image is obscured, and we 
have lost the "memory of our true selves... The human tragedy is that what makes 
the soul unlike God makes it unlike itself." 6) We realize our alienation from 
God but often without understanding fully that this is an alienation from ourselves 
as well, and that the process of healing and restoration entails a journey back 
to both realities. 

Jesus Christ is the new Creation. He is the Father's perfect Image. By his Incar- 
nation Christ wonderfully restored our wounded nature to its original harmony, and 
offered us the perfect image of how our nature was intended to reflect the Creator. 


Precisely through growing into the likeness of the Son we are enabled to return 
to the Father, experiencing the restoration of our filial relationship to him and 
to his will. Yet our personal return to that integral harmony intended by our 
Creator still depends on our free response to the grace which he has offered us 
in Christ Jesus. 

In the wake of sin the clear understanding of ourselves as image was replaced by 
a vague yearning, a dim knowledge that the true center of our lives is not in our- 
selves. This yearning we often experience as incompleteness, disharmony, and a 
longing for unity and wholeness that in the depth of our spirit we know could and 
should be ours. Through the grace of Christ we can now penetrate, return to, the 
inner recesses of our inmost self where we are most real. 


"For I do not understand my own actions. I 

do not practice or accomplish what I wish, 

but I do the very thing that I loathe." (Rom. 7:15) 

Union with God necessitates our entering into the depth of our spirit where our 
eternal self dwells, in order to understand the "whys" that make up our response 
to the Lord, to ourselves, to others, and to all reality. To know our immortal 
self is to know our giftedness and our dignity. So many live only at the level of 
the conscious self. This often leads to a negative and superficial approach to 
ourselves and to others. There is need to clarify the difference between our 
conscious self, and that true self who is much deeper than what we experience 
directly. This deep inner person is the real "me" who stands before God and through 
whom I touch him in intimate union. 7) 

In order to come to the heart of who God is, who we are, and who we are to become, 
it is needful to deal with our attitudes rather than merely our way of acting. 
Attitudes are more deeply rooted and are the source of our acts. We often spend 
much time trying to overcome our faults but never really make any headway due to 
a lack of understanding of the motives from which we act. 

Our prayer, also, to be truly contemplative; needs to flow out from this inner 
self and from the secret chamber of the heart. When concentrating on improving 
our prayer we often limit our efforts to times of prayer or kinds of prayer when 
actually what the Lord calls us to is a state of UNCEASING PRAYER, which is an 
attitude of life. Approaching prayer in this way brings us again into the mys- 
tery of prayer as "relationship" which as we have said above was the type of 
prayer Dominic knew and by which his whole life was impelled, and through which 
his Apostolic committment reached the heights ! Prayer becomes not what we do 
but what we are and this of necessity must be life-changing. So by the grace 
and the light of the Holy Spirit we are transformed as we open ourselves to the 
reality_ of our attitudes. Through this process we begin to live on the level of 
our immortal self. On this deep level the Spirit does his work of informing and 
reforming. The grace of healing and restoration is the work of the Spirit 
abiding in our hearts. The Spirit brings us back to the stance wherein we can 
cry out "Abba, Father." This, basically, is what comprises the journey to the heart, 
a journey that is the response to God's initiative " and a "yes" to his purifying 
and healing light. In order to live in a state of unceasing prayer we descend 
into the very center of our being where our fundamental self resides--that self 


created in God's image. When we become in touch with ourselves, we at the same 
time, touch all reality with greater comprehension and truthfulness. Our heart's 
core determines our relationship with God. In the center of our heart we stand 
as creature, as incomplete, as reaching forth to the infinite, the eternal, the 
One who is our Creator. 

"One of the reasons why every human life is so 
mysterious is because there is... within each of 
us another self, whom we do not really know... 
but whom God loves. Tnis person, our true self, 
can enter into contact with God and speak to 
him. It is toward this other self that we move 
by committing ourselves, with detachment from what 
we see, to the formation that God sends us. "8) 

We can never fully penetrate the mystery of our being. Thomas says that to the degree 
that creation reflects the Divine there will always remain mystery; knowledge of 
self comes through a process of revelation. Our task is to be patient with this 
process, with the time it takes' and the means used by the Holy Spirit to reveal 
the hidden mystery of our heart. 9) The Holy Spirit, the revealer of the truth of 
our heart seeks our willingness to open ourselves to his truth; the willingness to 
see our poverty and to allow him to make known to us the false self that can cover 
our imaging. For all of us this is true to some degree. This process brings us 
into the disharmony that is a part of our life, so that it may be healed. 

As was said above, we are dealing with two realities: we have spoken of the SELF. 
The other reality is the PRESENCE OF GOD. The inner sanctuary where we encounter 
the self is also, as John Tauler writes, God's true dwelling. The journey to the 
heart is an encounter with God. It is in this encounter with God that we encounter 
self. The place of encounter is the secret chamber;, the abyss of the heart, the 
ground and center of our being. 

"We sink into this abyss, and in it is God's true 
dwelling place. . ..Anyone who would find his way 
here would truly find God... and would find him- 
self at one with God, for God never leaves this 
abyss. God would be present to him and here he 
would apprehend and delight in eternity, for 
here there is neither past nor future. There 
is no created light which can reach these depths 
or illumine them; for this is nothing else than 
God's dwelling and his own place. "10) 

St. John of the Cross says the same thing in the Spiritual Canticle. He says 
to the soul that if she has not found her Beloved it is because she has not 
hidden herself with him in the depth of her heart. 11) So, in this hidden 
sanctuary the two mysteries meet; God and ourselves as image. By means of this 
mutual knowledge, God and Self, we come to understand the truth of our existence 
and the truth of God. The tools which Scripture gives us are detachment and the 
experience of solitude and the desert. Each of these experiences is intimately 
connected with the other; ; all contain similiar elements but each reality also 
has a particular nuance of its own. Therefore we shall proceed to study each one 
of these elements . 



"I will confess, therefore what I know of 
myself... The knowledge that I have of my- 
self, I possess because you have enlight- 
ened me; while the knowledge of myself that 
I do not yet possess will not be mine until 
my darkness shall be made as the noonday sun 
before your face. "12) 

True knowledge of self is a contemplative grace, not the fruit of introspection. 
God's revelation of the mystery of our image comes through three main sources: 
Scripture, daily life, and the light of the indwelling Spirit enabling us to 
understand and interpret the first two sources. 

Growth in the knowledge of God is impossible without, at the same time, coming 
to know ourselves. If we are not willing to see ourselves in the truth of his 
light, which can at times be a very painful process, we shall never reach God in 
that profound union to which we have been called. This pain is, as Scripture says, 
like the pain of Childbirth. The pain is soon forgotten in the JOY of bringing 
forth new LIFE! The important thing is not to look at the process by which we 
arrive but rather to fix our eyes firmly on the goal toward which we are going- 
union with God. The God who calls us, a God of mercy and love, initiates the 
process and brings it to fulfillment. This is a lifetime project; the Lord of 
mercy moves with us slowly, that we may realize the great wonder of his merciful 

Catherine calls God the "gentle mirror" 13) in which we come to know our own 
dignity and at the same time our unworthiness and sinfulness. God is a gentle 
mirror because we see the truth about ourselves reflected through his healing 
and creative love. All of us stand in need of the healing of our human life, 
the acceptance of our humanness and our woundedness. Only in being fully human 
can we become fully divinized. 

Dominican prayer and spirituality, have always focused on God first. Our spirit- 
uality does not tend to minute self- introspection. This awareness of our deepest 
self is not introspection but rather the effect of God's light, a light through 
which we become free with the freedom of God's children! The self is seen mirrored 
in God. Self- awareness through God's healing light puts us in our proper place 
and brings- us to complete self-forgetfulness . 

"Our Dominican life summons us to a deep belief 
in the intimacy of Divine love that called us into 
being out of nothingness, the Divine love that 
redeems and sanctifies ... Learning to live in the 
power of that belief we learn how in gentleness to 
turn away from ourselves and to look at the Lord. 
For contemplation as we have defined it is the 
gaze of the heart which looks at the Lord." 14) 

The Lord's gaze rests upon us and in that gaze we see ourselves mirrored in the 
Divine goodness, love, and purity; all in us that is opposed to that stands out 
in painful relief. This gaze can penetrate to the depths of our awareness in a 
moment of time and we are given an intuitive insight into our poverty and our 
richness. This knowing can be compared to the purification of purgatory for in 


this knowledge we become poor in spirit and therefore capable of receiving the 
Kingdom of God. 

"To be contemplative means the capacity to look 
at ourselves as we are and not to be afraid be- 
cause he first loved us. St. Catherine of Siena 
always said that the basis of the spiritual life 
is going to demand humility because we always stand 
before the Lord with our poverty" 151 

Self-knowledge j self- awareness comes not through introspection, then, but rather through 
presence to the One. The marriage relationship is a good symbol here; as the 
couple comes gradually to know each other better through living together and 
growing in intimacy, so our dwelling with the Lord in mutual knowledge results in 
a growing intimacy. 

In attaining a greater awareness of our real self, we are, in that same light 

more illuminated and in tune with the hidden life of the heart and with the unique 

call of our vocation and mission. By the acceptance of ourselves in the totality 

of our truth we grow in maturity and freedom. "Until the soul is established with 

the mind in the heart, it does not see itself, nor is it properly aware of itself." 16) 


Real poverty begins when we know 
we receive everything as gift. 

One of the greatest obstacles to advancement in prayer and the spiritual life is 
the fear of facing the disharmony and the root weakness of our lives. To do so 
seems to ask a detachment and renunciation that is far beyond us. This is true! 
We are afraid. So, like Adam and Eve in the Garden we try to hide from God our 
nakedness. 18) To be seen by God is to see ourselves in our nakedness and poverty. 
This nakedness consists in the alienation and disharmony in which we now stand 
before the Lord; a reality which we wish to avoid or even deny. Yet healing comes 
only when we admit the truth of our situation. There cannot be complete oneness 
with God if we have not become one with ourselves, nor are we ever able to attain 
perfect oneness with others when we dwell in inner disunity. These relationships 
(God, myself, and others) are interdependent. They grow together as we become 
more mature in the Lord and. right order is re-established; God, ourselves as 
creature, and the solidarity of my person with all my brothers and sisters in 
Christ Jesus. The self-emptying process, the dying to self is a release from 
the falsity of our life. The losing, the dying are negative aspects of the Cross: 
their counterparts, in the Resurrection, are peace and unity. 

True self-awareness brings with it the knowledge of our radical poverty. In holi- 
ness we remain poor, for our fulfillment and perfection is perceived clearly, as 
being not in ourselves but in God. Ultimately in the descent into the heart we 
are radically touched by the reality that we stand before God as needing all, and 
receiving all as gift. Our journey takes us into the heart of our fear, our 
aloneness, our separateness , in the experience of these negative elements we under- 
stand, existentially; our poverty and dependency. Here we learn to surrender, to 
let go the mastery of our life. 19) The basic truth we are dealing with here is 
that it is not our faithfulness , but God's faithfulness that sustains us and leads 
us to holiness . 


The real process of transformation begins when we enter into the mystery 
of self-surrender and self-emptying and for each person this will be a unique 
manifestation of their particular mission and "way of being present" to the Lord 
as Image. The Lord's fidelity is our only assurance. What more do we need? 
"Without me you can do nothing" becomes known, not as words, but as lived and 
tasted reality in a painful/joyful encounter which is the key that unlocks the 
Kingdom of God. 

This work is not ours but the Lord's, Our part is to maintain an openness and trust 
in his healing/revealing light. The descent to the heart brings us within the 
ambient of dark contemplation--darkness which is light, part of mystic knowledge, 
that knowledge which the Spirit uses as his mode of healing and enlightenment. In 
the school of the Holy Spirit the light brings darkness because the object of reve- 
lation is mystery and also because we have begun "letting go" our life and are 
walking not according to our seeing but according to his, which for us means dark- 
ness. 20) In this darkness the meaning of our helplessness and utter poverty reaches 
a new clarity. Sanctity does not come from ourselves; we cannot even do the good 
we wish. The life of grace is indeed gift, unmerited and unearnable! To understand 
this reverses in our life the sin of our first parents. Through the Tree of the 
Cross we again become obedient to the Word and to the Spirit, who does his work of 
sanctification deep within our spirits. If we allow this experience to come to 
fruition, we shall dwell in the presence of Divine Love where no thought or concept 
resides : only silence, solitude, and profound stillness before the God with whom 
we have become one. 

The knowledge that we have been studying is two-fold (God and Self) ; so also the 
darkness which follows from this mode of knowing. God dwells beyond all our knowing 
and therefore must necessarily be darkness to our finite powers. The Self at that 
point where it images God is also darkness, for as St. Thomas says, "the ultimate 
reality of things is something to which we can never finally penetrate because we 
can never grasp these likenesses of the Divine Ideas." 21) The God of love, of 
gentleness and compassion; leads and sustains us. The promise of his faithfulness 
we keep ever before us in order to set aside fear and plunge with love into the 
darkness. On the journey we gradually come to be at peace with the darkness. The 
mystery is fearful only in our anticipation and painful only in our becoming 
accustomed to living at the level of our deepest center. 

The negative aspects of detachment make the positive value of union possible. To 
be ruled by the Holy Spirit, we surrender our natural capacities not to be destroyed 
but to be built upon, in order to live to the full the divine life of grace. To 
stand before the Lord stripped of all illusions, our neat defenses and walls having 
crumbled about us: this is the real preparation for the life of union. The price 
of union is TRUST, and precisely in trusting we enter into the hardest task of 
our wounded nature. 


"I, says the Lord... will lead the noble soul 
out into a desert and there I will speak to 
her heart, One with one, and One in one, 
everlastingly." 22) 

The desert has always, in monastic culture, been associated with encounter. 
Encounter with God, the God of purity, of simplicity; the Purifier and the Restorer 


The root of Monastic tradition is a desert spirituality, one of actual physical 
separation from society, as an essential part of its charism. The early men and 
women monastics sought this solitary situation in order to seek more intensely the 
God of their heart. They chose to separate themselves from all else that they 
might descend into the secret chamber of the heart. 23) In our reflection on 
Solitude we wish to treat of the heart's solitude, the inner desert experience, the 
"end" for which the monastic ascesis of separation exists. 

Though the enclosed life provides an atmosphere in which we can more readily 
enter into the secret recesses of the heart j the "heart's solitude" can be avoided 
just as easily behind the cloister walls as anywhere else. One could say that 
the cloister might even provide an excuse to avoid this confrontation for we can 
take refuge in the sense of being cloistered, of having times of solitude and 
prayer, and never descend into that contemplative solitude that prepares for union 
with God. 

"It is better to lose the God we find it easy to 
envisage, and the faith that was only a protection 
for our fears, and stand naked and unknowing in the 
presence of the One who can only really be known 
when he is lived with." 24) 

Each of us exists as a unique individual; a "never again to be repeated" reflection 
of the Divine. In the inmost center of the human spirit we are solitary--separate, 
different from every "other". In the inner chamber of solitude, every human person 
remains virginal before God, the sinner as well as the saint, for the heart's core 
is incommunicable. Every human being at some time senses the condition of restless- 
ness existing within its spirit. The saint differs from the sinner in that the 
saint has come to understand from whence the soul's unrest originates and where 
healing lies, while the sinner remains caught in the unrest of a heart that can 
never be satisfied in the transitory. To experience our aloneness, our separateness , 
our uniqueness, is to be present to loneliness, a condition inherent in the mystery 
of our createdness. Loneliness can be the heart's call to a greater intimacy. 

In the inner desert experience we learn not only to practice poverty but on an 
even deeper level, we enter into a state of poverty. Poverty becomes our dwelling, 
our home. God leads us into a desert where he will hem us in and leave us in the 
darkness of his intimate life. "Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see 
God." We shall attain to God in unknowing and in the emptiness of our desert abode. 25) 

Let us take the desert theme one step further. Both Eckhart and Tauler call God 
a desert. Tauler speaks of the soul being drawn beyond the faculties into a 
solitary desert, which no one can describe, into the hidden darkness which has no 
recognizable characteristics. 26) This desert is a place of simplicity and one- 
ness, without distinctions — a place of unity. In this desert everything has been 
reduced to the absolutely essential. He says in the abyss there is place only for the 
Divinity: a return to our source and our origin in the Godhead. We need only be 
obedient to the "loving voice which calls in the desert." 

"No one can imagine the desolation which is in 
this desert, no one at all. Truly no one; because 


"this is so inward and so infinitely remote; 
because it has nothing to do with time or 
space." 27) 

Meister Eckhart refers to the soul entering "into the simple ground, into the 
quiet desert, into which distinction never gazed..." He also describes the 
ultimate state of union as "naked the soul goes forth to meet the naked Godhead 
in a wilderness without name. . '.' 28)The dictionary defines "desert" as an uninhabit- 
able region, uncultivated, desolate, and barren. These are not word pictures 
that attract one. Yet Eckhart, Tauler, and John of the Cross use these same terms 
to speak of this profound solitude and desert experience of the heart. Even more, 
they encourage us to seek this desert as a treasure to be desired above all other 
desiring! In the intimate embrace of faith and love in the barren wilderness the 
true God is touched, possessed and enjoyed--a deep indwelling in the silence of 
living knowledge. Free of all distraction in this land without landmark or image 
we see God more clearly, as it were; there is nothing to prevent us from entering 
into the silence of the one God in three. So indeed this is a dwelling place 
devoid of all except the Godhead; nothing else can enter here. The great mystics 
often use negative terms to express this reality, not because the reality is neg- 
ative but only because our finite concepts and ideas cannot grasp the vast richness 
that the spirit encounters herein. In actuality the mystery can be viewed from 
the perspective of dying and the cross or from the positive aspects of healing and 
progressive wholeness. Both perspectives are true and necessary. In the blending 
of the two which is the complete desert experience we have resurrection. So, the 
soul becomes simple, and the greater the simplicity, the purer the understanding. 

" in the desert we are led in the course of our 
life; and in the desert life becomes simplified; at that 
point we are given the vision that there is only God. 
In that desert we are given our identity. I am crea- 
ture. I participate in the very life of God... In the 
desert we are given a far greater ability to compassionate 
with those who suffer... We begin really to sing from 
the depths of our heart the paradox 'in the midst of 
life we are in death. "29) 

So it is in the wasteland of the inner desert experience of nothingness, that 
everything thus far spoken of comes together; who we are, who God is, and who we 
are to be for one another. In the desert we learn not only the mystery of our 
solitariness but also the mystery of our relatedness. The truth of Christianity 
is that we are all one in Christ Jesus and the human destiny is a corporate one. 
Our relatedness flows from our ability to be present to ourselves in our own 
uniqueness, to others in theirs, and present to God whom each of us continually 
touchs in our deepest center, where we image him. For there, in the emptiness, 
where the Spirit who is love and life gradually strips everything away, there remains 
only God and his truth and we are established in the essential, as we continue on 
our pilgrim journey until that moment when we shall see him face to face. 

Jesus, our way. entered the desert experience of our humanity for love of the Father 
and also for love of us. He knew that experience even more deeply in the Garden 


the night before he died. Jesus in the Garden takes upon himself our burden, our 
desert, our loneliness so that even in the midst of the desert we are never alone. 

"Jesus becomes separated from his disciples. He 
is preparing himself in prayer for God's action and 
he must be alone. There is no human person who 
stands with him in the desert, in the night watch. 
.And so Jesus must do what he has done throughout 
his life. He must take refuge in that one rela- 
tionship which will remain with him as he crosses the 
final wilderness to death itself, his relationship 
with the Father. . .This is the wilderness and the 
Garden meeting head on." 30) 

Tn the desert we are given a new heart of love and compassion. By the existential 
realization of our own poverty we receive a heart of compassion for the poverty 
and inadequacy of others. On the journey we have again and again known the Father's 
tender mercy and compassion for all that is weak in us, so we share his mercy with 
our sisters and brothers. In the nakedness and poverty of the desert we sing more 
sweetly the beautiful canticle of God's mercy. How gentle is our God! The great 
commandment that is two-fold is all that remains: "Love the Lord your God with 
all your heart, with all your soul, and all your strength and love one another as 
I, (Jesus) have loved you." This is the summation of the law and the Prophets, the 
new Creation, the Kingdom of God present! 


"Who is this coming up from the desert 
leaning on her Beloved." (Sg ofSg 8:5 ) 

Monastic tradition has always drawn a parallel between the comtemplative phase of 
the spiritual life and the life of Adam and Eve in the Garden of paradise. Later 
mystics interpreting the Song of Songs have also used this theme of the Garden to 
speak of the soul's union with God. "A garden enclosed and barred is my Sister my 
Bride; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed... a paradise with precious fruit." (Sg 59) 
By saying that the monastery was like paradise the monks were not saying that 
there was no pain or hardship, or that the monastery was an escape from the ascesis 
of the human condition. No, rather they were speaking of the inner harmony that 
comes from having conquered sin, and surrendered to the Lord's will. The inner 
peace and integrity) a wholeness that characterized the life of our first parents, 
comes to us through union with the Divine Will. A renewed way of being in relation 
to the Creator Father is brought about in the deepest center of our heart, the 
secret, hidden kingdom within, come to fruition. For the Monk "his faculties in 
order, undisturbed by the ravages of sin" is like one in "paradise and enjoys a 
state of harmony and familiarity with God, his fellows, the entire universe; he 
lives the life of God. "51) The fruits of paradise regained were, recovery of integ- 
rity and dominion over the passions, and an interior tranquility that could not be 
disturbed by the passing events of life. In other words, the restoration of order is 
enjoyed in the fullest measure possible in this life within the heights of contem- 
plative prayer--a prayer in which union of wills is achieved most perfectly. The 
Divine Attributes become ours, as it were, by participation in the Divine Life in 
a more perfect manner. Eckhart says that in God there is not sorrow or suffering or 
affliction, and those who cling to him unreservedly share in this through a heart 
blessed by his peace, a heart that is free of rebellion. This peace sustains us 


in a certain stability even though on the surface of life there will be ups and 
downs. Only in heaven will there be perfect harmony 3 , here we still live in a 
world that feels the effects of our fallen state. An empty spirit is free, free 
from all desire except that desire which God desires, therefore it abides in 
serenity and tastes, after a manner, the repose, the sweetness of eternal life, 
"for it is all sunk deep down into God's dearest will." So, we are brought into 
the "garden" and given that peace which surpasses all understanding; our prayer 
becomes unceasing because our union is unceasing. Having come to the very thresh- 
hold of beatitude we share, in the abyss of our heart, in the unchangeableness of 
Eternity. All is grace! 

Both Meister Eckhart and John Tauler describe this state as "possessing eternity." 
The Gospel of St. John says "eternal life is this^ knowing you the true God and 
Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (Jn 17:3 ) Eckhart writes that in this union the 
soul is: 

"...transformed into the image of God's everlastingness 
and has attained to a complete and perfect oblivion of 
this transient life in time, and has been drawn and 
wholly changed into a divine image and has become God's 
child. . .there is in it eternal repose and blessedness." 32) 

Tauler says in a similiar vein: 

"Those who are granted this union with God act 
beyond time in eternity, beyond creation, in the 
uncreated, beyond multiplicity, in simplicity. In 
the midst of tumult they are at peace. They sink 
into the depths of the divinity with longing desire, 
and carry everything up to God where everything is 
eternally in him, as he has loved and intended it." 35) 

Jesus said the Kingdom of God exists within us, a kingdom of peace and harmony. 

The Book of Isaia multiplies words and images to convey the rich concept of the 

restoration of humankind to the fullness of God's Kingdom. These images apply as 

well to that secret kingdom of the heart. "The Hesert and dry lands shall bloom 

and become fertile, justice will dwell in the wilderness. And there shall be 

peace. . .quietness and confident trust forever." (Is 35:16-20) "The blind will see, 

the lame walk, the dumb will praise the Lord, sadness and tears will be no more. 

(Is 35:1-10 § 40:29-31) The Lord himself will become our strength. (Is 49:5) 

He will bring to fruition his everlasting covenant "my love and kindness shall 

never depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace and completeness be removed." 

(Is: 54: 25) These are promises already present to those who have surrendered and who hear 

in their spirit the words of comfort: "Speak tenderly to the heart (our deepest 

heart) of Jerusalem and cry to her that her time of service and warfare are ended, 

that her iniquity is pardoned." (Is 40:2) The beautiful word pictures of Isaia 

for the Kingdom of God appertain, in a hidden manner, to the fruition of the 

God- life within the secret chamber of the heart. To abide in this inner sanctuary 

is to say "yes" in the fullest degree to the Lord Jesus' victory over sin and death. 

The Lord of our heart calls each of us, ours is only to respond and allow him to grace 

us and unite us to himself until that moment when we can sing with Mary "My soul 

magnifies the Lord, for he that is mighty has done great things in me!" 



"If all is well with a man then truly, wherever 
he may be, whomever he may be with, it is well 
with him. . .Whoever really and truly has God, he 
has him everywhere, in the streets and in every 
one, just as much as in the Church or in a soli- 
tary place or in his cell." 34) 

Love is diffusive. The greater the love the deeper will the desire be to share 
with others the love we experience. One who has reached the heights of union 
will desire to go forth, to impart life, peace, joy to others. This going forth 
is a fuller abiding in God's will, listened to with great freedom and carried 
out with the courage and fortitude that comes from the life-giving Spirit. In the .. 
fullness of contemplation the self is forgotten, its joys and comforts, all its 
desires; only one force animates it and that is the Will of God. Nothing hinders 
such a person inwardly from seeking to incorporate the Will of the Lord into daily 
life. At times, the decision of others can hamper or delay our response but as Paul 
says all things work together for the good of those who love God. The Lord respects 
the freedom in which he created us but despite our weakness, if we consent, his will comes 
to fruition. Through this union we are established in inner peace and silence and 
therefore may be sent forth to love all God's people more deeply and more truly. 
In going forth the mystery of fruitfulness is realized in us. Contemplation and 
union always, in some way, become fruitful in love for God and for others. How 
it is expressed in our lives depends on our particular situation and the manifesta- 
tion of God's will for us in the concrete. But the point stressed by all those 
who write of this prayer and union is that true prayer and union invariably produces 
in us a selflessness and a deep desire, one could even say a need, to be consumed 
for the sake of God's people and for those brothers and sisters with whom we live 
and have contact. Dominic's own heart was consumed bv such a fire of lo^e! 

To describe this fruitfulness Meister Eckhart uses the image of "Martha and Mary." 
He reverses the traditional interpretation of this passage and says it is Martha, not 
Mary ; who is the perfect one. Martha has learned to blend the contemplative and active 
life. Is this not similiar to Thomas Aquinas' teaching on the perfection of the 
mixed life 

"Aquinas taught that the contemplative life was 
higher in itself than the active life but that, 
on earth, where we do not fully possess God but 
continually strive to possess him, it is not the 
active but the mixed life which is best." 35) 

Martha had achieved perfection in that her inner silence was not interrupted by her 
service. She remained united to the Lord of her heart in that inner sanctuary, in 
the midst of activity. In other words Martha symbolizes the mature person in whom 
action flows out from contemplation. 36) 

Let us make a very important distinction here between mere busyness, the danger into 
which we can so easily fall, and action which flows from our union with God. All 
our activity can come under this latter category because of our union and the inner 
attitude of our heart proceeding from this union. The daily events of life, exciting 
and humdrum, are brought into our deep indwelling with the Lord; our whole existence 
becomes a "being before the Lord." In the action that flows from contemplation 
(unceasing prayer) there is perfect detachment, for we have lost even the God of 
comfort to become the image of the God who brings life and comfort. Our union of 
wills with Jesus, and through Jesus with the Trinity, color all our action, 



for everything finds its source in this inner intention (attitude) of oneness 
and union. Therefore,, as John of the Cross writes; the soul acts in God and God acts 
in the soul in such a way that their action is one. 37) In this life action can- 
not be avoided, only in heaven can we enjoy perfect "rest;" here our stillness 
is inevitably followed by times of going forth as we continue to dwell in a world 
of need, a world of time, of succession and movement. Finally, our transformation 
is always an ever deeper likeness to the Lord Jesus and a sharing in his work, which 
is the work of the Father. The Lord's work above all else is a work of love. Our 
solitude, then, calls us forth to love, to minister, to share our peace and joy 
with all the "others" whom our lives will touch. The God of our heart summons us 
to love all that the Godhead loves. When we are at peace with the deepest meaning of 
our life, then we enter into the midst of the "world" with a heart at rest 38) 
The Spirit has set us free, opened our hearts to listen deeply and empowered us to 
respond without fear. As with Dominic, so with us, the peace and harmony of our life 
will strengthen and witness to others who are searching for the truth of living. 

In our world so active and fragmented, the witness of silence and peace shines out 
with particular brilliance, but also with a sense of mystery, confronting the values 
of our milieu. 


The thoughts we have shared from Tauler and Eckhart are indeed profound. These 
great Dominicans are calling us to the very heights, heights that Dominican 
theology has consistently taught are for everyone. The way is very simple. We need 
only "let go" and "let be" in the ordinary tasks_of life. The Lord uses the very 
ordinary means to purify us and to bring our wi lls into one with his; the duties of 
service within community, the willingness to do the tasks that bring joy or those 
that are distasteful and may mean a greater sacrifice for us, a responsible 
obedience which offers real challenges to humility and love. In all these circum- 
stances our patient, gentle God constantly waits upon the response that allows the 
Word of the Lord to become ever more active and fruitful in our lives. 

Dominican contemplation is Incarnational , one could say, we are people comfortable 
with our humanness, recognizing the goodiiess inherent in all creation. Dominican 
Spirituality, while united intimately to contemplative values., has its "feet" firmly 
planted in the reality of time, the here and now of our world where the Good News 
is to be preached. Dominican love of truth gives impetus to all our living and in a 
special way to our life of prayer. Love of truth purifies us to see with a deeper 
clarity of vision, to be far-seeing and great-hearted people. There is a certain 
broadness and richness to Dominican contemplation with its overflow in love through 
the preaching and sharing of the Word. Anselm Moynihan says that the Nuns share in this 
by helping to create in our life of prayer "The Dominican consciousness of the 
reality of the truths" that the brothers and sisters preach. 39) In our life we 
fulfill this by listening intently, and pondering the Word in our heart, at work in 
the Order, and in the world by reading the "signs of the times." To do so is incum- 
bent on every member of the Dominican Family. By attentive listening to the Word 
wherever it is found we enable the Holy Spirit to call us forth into the reality of 
the "truth" of his presence alive and active now, in our day. The Spirit continually 
opens up to us new and wonderful vistas, making the Christ Event complete as we 


await his coming in glory. Dominicans cling firmly to the Word, listening and 
putting it into practice. The Word of God is not far from any of us, "no it is 
something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have 
only to carry it out." (Dt. 50:14) We share in the itinerant aspect of the Order 
by our willingness to hear the truth and to change our life so that we may constantly 
witness to the power of the Word in our living. Mere we have no abiding city, no 
permanence} but in the spirit of Dominic we are called forth in a real zeal and zest 
for life, with a heart of fire for the salvation of all people. Our spirituality 
must never become small or static. The Word of God cannot become familiar and com- 
fortable! "Going forth" is an integral part of Dominican Contemplation, the calling 
of a spirit enamored of truth and dedicated to the Word. The Spirit of the Lord 
calls us forth to minister through our prayer, our love, and our celebration of the 
Liturgy. In our monasteries we are called forth to minister to those the Lord sends 
into our lives by our hospitality and letter writing. Above all else he calls us 
forth to minister within community to one another that we may work together and grow 
together unto the fullness of Christ Jesus. 

So we have come full circle, the journey of the heart, via solitude and the desert, 
to that perfect freedom of the children of Godj a very human freedom and holiness. 
The journey is a gradual human maturing, as well as a deeper realization of the 
graced- life of the heart. In our uniqueness our experience of the journey, of the 
Wilderness^ will be particularly our own. With joy let us journey together into the 
Solitude, to encourage one another in the undertaking, and to strengthening another 
on the way! The joy and the strength of the Lord go on our journey with us. So 
this paper ends where' it began with the mystery of our imaging. The most sublime 
truth of our humanity is that we are created to image and reflect the Godhead, "In 
and through the grace of the Lord Jesus, the journey to the heart establishes us 
firmly in this profound reality, where we rest in union with the Father and the Son 
and the Holy Spirit. 

"Yes, if we are well and truly emptied, we 
shall be well and truly filled... Our part 
in all this is to allow ourselves to be 
prepared, and give place and scope for the 
Holy Spirit to accomplish his work in us. "40) 



1. M.H. Vicaire, O.P., Saint Dominic and His Times, (McGraw Book Company: 
New York, 1964) p. 390 

2. Etienne Gilson, The Spirit of Thomism, (Harper Torchbooks, Harper and Row: 
New York, 1964) p. 36 

3. For a more comprehensive theological background to the concept of Image, 
the following references are excellent: 

New Catholic Encyclopedia, (McGraw-Hill: New York, 1967) 
Vol VI, "Grace and Nature," pp. 683-685 
Vol VII, "Image of God," p. 369 
Vol X, "Nature in a Specific Sense," p. 279 

"Patristic Philosophy',' see "Image of God," p. 1107 

Another helpful book is George Maloney, S.J. Man, The Divine Icon(see 
Bibliography). In this book Fr. Maloney expounds on man the Image of God, as 
seen in the writings of the Fathers of the Church. 

4. Aelred Squire, O.P., Asking the Fathers, The Art of Meditation and Prayer , 
(Paulist Press: New Jersey, 1973) p. 23 

5. St. Augustine, The Confessions 

6. Squire, O.P., p. 32 

7. When speaking of the self as conscious self or immortal and fundamental 
self, we are speaking of the different levels of awareness and self-realization. 
Modern psychology uses many terms to express these levels of awareness. Adrian Van 
Kaam calls the deeper levels of the self our "spiritual" or "fundamental" self. 

"A core self that is God's gift to me." He also says this fundamental self is 
revealed to us gradually. "In the center of my being God keeps communicating to me 
in love what he wants me to be." (In Search of Spiritual Identity) In another place 
he writes of our "current" self and our "emergent" self. In the process of becoming 
a mature person the "emergent self" is constantly coming forth from the deepest 
level of our "fundamental self" and replacing our "current" or conscious self until 
the two become one. The Holy Spirit does his work of revelation in this process. 
The dichotomy we experience in our person is the result of sin. Grace is the gift 
that heals these rifts--only in heaven will there be complete harmony. 

8. Squire, o.P., p. 229 

9. Chariton of Valamo, The Art of Prayer, an Orthodox Anthology, Trans, by 
E. Kadloubovsky and E.M. Palmer, (Faber and Faber Limited: London, 1966) "The 

term heart had a far broader meaning in Scripture, the writing of the Desert Fathers, 
and in Orthodox Spirituality. . .the term heart .. .embraces in effect everything that 
goes to comprise what we call person." p. 18 "The heart is the innermost man, or 
spirit. Here are located self-awareness, the conscience, the idea of God and of 
one's complete dependence on him, and all the treasures of the Spiritual life." p. 190 


10. John Tauler, O.P. Spiritual Conferences , Trans, by Eric Colledge and 
Sister M. Jane, O.P. (B. Herder Book Company: St. Louis, 1961) p. 119 

11. Complete Works of John of the Cross , Trans, by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and 
Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (ICS Publications: Washington, D.C., 1973] "Spiritual 
Canticle", Stanza 1, #9, p. 419 

12. St. Augustine, Liturgy of the Hours , Vol. Ill, p. 2"0 

15. The Dialogue of Catherine of Siena , Trans, and Introduction by Suzanne Noffke, 
The Classics of Western Spirituality, (Paulist Press: New York, 1980) 

"As the soul comes to know herself she also knows God better, 
for she sees how good he has been to her. In the gentle mir- 
ror of God she sees her own dignity; that through no merit 
of hers but by his creation she is the image of God. And in 
the mirror of God's goodness she sees as well her own unwor- 
thiness, the work of her sin. For just as you can better 
see the blemish on your face when you look at yourself in a 
mirror so the soul who in true self-knowledge rises up with 
desire to look at herself in the gentle mirror of God with the 
eye of understanding sees all the more clearly her own defects 
because of the purity she sees in him. p. 48 

14. Thomas McGonigle, O.P. "A Word for the Lord: A Word for the World" 
(Dominican Education Center: Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, 1945) p. 22 

15. McGonigle, O.P. p. 24 

16. Chariton of Valamo, p. 222 

1". Meister Eckhart , Trans, and Introduction by Edmund Colledge, O.S.A. $ Bernard 
McGinn, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Paulist Press: New York, 1981) 

"Perfect detachment has no looking up to, no abasement, no beneath 
any created thing or above it; it wishes to be neither beneath 
nor above, it wants to exist by itself, not giving joy or 
sorrow to anyone, not wanting equality or inequality with any 
created thing, not wishing for this or that. All that it wants 
is to_ be . it is that detachment makes no claim upon anything... 
true detachment is nothing else than for the spirit to stand as 
immovable against whatever may chance to it of joy and sorrow, 
honor, shame and disgrace, as a mountain of lead stands before 
a little breath of wind... it is from his detachment that he 
has his purity and his simplicity and his unchangeability ." 
p. 286-88 
When Eckhart spoke of detachment one of the words he used was the German "Gelassenheit" 
which means: "to leave, to let go, to let be." The truly poor let go of all things 
becoming empty in order to make the way clear to be filled with the richness of God. 
There is great freedom in allowing people and things "to be" in our life their 
unique manifestation of the divine without trying, as we often do, to manipulate others 
in order to relate them to us as we want them to be. Eckhart 's poverty is that by which 
we let go the mastery of our life, so that we may receive all things from the Lord 
as gift. 

18. Genesis 5:9-10 "...the Lord God called to (Adam) and said to him, 'Where are 
you?' And he said, ' I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because 
I was naked; and I hid myself.'" 


19. Adrian Van Kaam, (The Dynamics of Sp iritual Self Direction, (Dimension 
Books: Devilled, New Jersey, 1975) Chapter 9 "Self Direction and the Alienation- 
Emergence Cycle." 

"Out of every experience of alienation comes the chance to 
emerge as a new self in Christ, to reconceive ourselves as 
Christians on the way, to choose the kind of self that ap- 
proaches a little more the divine direction meant for us 

for eternity Self alienation is in fact, a perfectly 

normal initiation to a period of transition in our life 
direction. But the static perfection fallacy assures us that 
we won't have to face unexpected directives if we stick to 
routines." p. 220 

20. Adrian Van Kaam, In Search of Spiritual Identity , ( Dimension Books 
Denville, New Jersey, 1975) 

"The deepest union with God demands the deepest understanding 
of and faithfulness to my eternal call. Such knowledge and 
loyalty calls for a final purification so deep that only God 
can effect it in the soul. God himself must help me to expe- 
rience how lost, lonely and vulnerable I still am in spite of 
all the purification. .The mystical writers compare it to a 
dark night. In these dark nights of the soul the last rem- 
nants of the initial defensive life style are obliterated." p. 160 

"This emptying is the first and most important preparation for the 
reception of the Holy Spirit. The measure of our emptiness is the measure of 
our receptivity. If a vessel is to be filled, then whatever is in it must be 
first poured out.. so we must let ourselves be taken captive, emptied, prepared. 
We must abandon everything, and even abandon our abandonment, and go out from 
ourselves utterly and completely." John Tauler pp. 179-180 

21. Josef Pieper, The Silence of St. Thomas, Trans, by John Murray S.J. and 
Daniel O'Connor, (Henery Regnery Co., Chicago, IL, 1966) p. 57 

22. Eckhart p. 247 

23. Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, Desert Spirituality and Contemporary 
Ministry , (Seabury Press: New York, 1981) p. 78 ~~ 

24. Squire, O.P. p. 15 

25. Tauler and Eckhart follow the apophatic tradition. Thomas Aquinas also 
teaches that in this life the perfection of our knowledge of God consists in "being 
united to him as unknown" (Gilson p. 79) Dominican Theology is affirmative of the 
goodness of all creation and the thoughts and ideas of humankind but in the last 
analysis we only really begin to know God when we realize that he transcends any 
possible idea we have of him. All of us in some way before we see God face to face 
share Thomas' vision of the Feast of St. Nicholas. 

26. John Tauler "This man's soul will now be drawn up beyond all his faculties 

into a solitary desert, which no one can describe, into the 
hidden darkness of a richness which has no recognizable charac- 
teristics. Then the soul is led still further on into a unitv 


which is God's Oneness, simple, without recognizable marks, so 
that the soul loses all sense of difference between God and itself. 
I do not say that all difference between God and the soul disappears, 
but that the soul loses the sense of difference because in unity all 
multiplicity is lost and it is unity which unifies diversity. When 
such a man returns to himself he has a new perception of all things 
clearer and more wonderful than other people's, a perception born in 
simplicity and unity. This unity is said to be... as is... 
an ineffable darkness, and yet it is the essential light. It is 
called an incomprehensible and solitary desert. This it certainly 
is; no one can find his way through it or see any landmark, for it 
has no marks which man may recognize." p. 176-177 

27. Tauler, p. 119 

28. Eckhart, p. 55 

29. Ed Ruane, O.P. Retreat Lufkin Community, 1983 

30. Gabriel O'Donnell Retreat Lufkin Community, 19S2 

51. Claude J. Peifer, OSB Monastic Spirituality , (Sheed and Ward: New York, 1966)p4. 

52. Eckhart, p. 242 
35. Tauler, p. 257 

54. Eckhart p. 251 

55. The T homist Vol 42, April, 1978 Meister Eckhart of Hochheim (650 anniversary) 
"Fundamental Themes in Meister Eckhart's Mysticism" John D. Caputo p. 205. The whole 
issue is excellent for obtaining a greater understanding of Eckhart and his thought. 

56. The Collected Works of St. Teresa, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. S Otilio 
Rodriguez, O.C.D. (ICS Publications: Washington, DC, Vol I, 1976, II, 1980) 

" It will seem to you that I am speaking with those who are beginning 
and that after the beginner's stage souls can rest. I have already 
told you that the calm these souls have interiorly is for the sake 
of their having much less calm exteriorly and much less desire to 
have exterior calm. . .Believe me Martha and Mary must join together 
in order to show hospitality to the Lord and have him always present 
and not host him badly..." pp 447-448 Vol II. For the fuller develop- 
ment of Teresa's thought see Interior Castle , "The Seventh Dwelling 
Place," Chapter 4 -9-15. 
The Lord reveals to Teresa that sanctity in this life comes not from any means in 
themselves, but from the one essential thing, union with God's will. 

"A few days after the experiences mentioned above, while thinking 
about whether they who thought it was wrong for me to go out to 
found monasteries might be right, and thinking that I would do better 
to be always occupied in prayer, I heard these words: 'While one is 
alive, progress doesn't come from trying to enjoy me more but by trying 
to do my will." 

"I thought that their recommendations would be God's will because of 
what St. Paul said about the enclosure of women, of which I was recently 


told and had even heard before. The Lord said to me: 'Tell them 
they shouldn't follow just one part of Scripture but that they 
should look to other parts and ask them if they can by chance tie 
my hands." Vol I, p. 328 

57. The . Collected Works of John o f the Cross , Trans. Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. 
§ Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (ICS Publications': Washington, DC, 1973) LF, Stanza 2,34 
"...all the movements, operations, and inclinations the soul had 
previously from the principle and strength of its natural life are 
now in this union dead to what they formerly were, changed into 
divine movements, and alive to God." 

38. Victorino Osende, O.P., Fruits of Contemplation, (B. Herder Company: 
St. Louis, 1953) 

"Many believe that contemplation, especially in its lofty degrees, 
is the final term and the most elevated goal of the supernatural 
life. That is not true, however... in speaking here of the contem - 
plative life we refer to the formal element of that life, that is, to 
the habitual union with God. . .Normally, therefore, the contemplative 
life should end in some form of the Apostolate. It should at 
least tend in that direction, although it may not always be possible 
for a soul to be active as are preachers. . .for this will depend 
upon the cirucumstances in which God has placed the soul and what 
His will is in regard to that soul. But a soul in this state will 
always feel the impulse to do everything possible to further the 
glory of God and the salvation of his neighbor. .. It is reasonable 
that this should be so, for good is diffusive by its very nature 
and it is in the contemplative life that one attains, through 
union with God, the most perfect possession possible of the Jiighest 
good. Wherefore, he who truly has attained to the contemplative 
life cannot help but feel this divine impulse to communicate it to 
others. This, indeed, is one of the most characteristic signs of 
the contemplative life and we find it in all the saints. . .although 
at times it may not be externally manifested, due to a life spent in 
solitude or other circumstances of one's state of life. But all 
these souls have felt themselves inflamed with zeal for the glory 
of God and the good of souls and have done all that they possibly 
could or whatever was permitted." pp. 298-299 (see also Chapter 3 
Interior Castle, Seventh Mansion.) 

39. Anselm Moynihan, O.P., Dominican Ashram, "Dominican Contemplative Life 
in the Church." (Ashoka Printing Press: Nagpur, India, December 1982) p. 155 

40. John Tauler, pp. 180-181 



Chariton of V'alamo, The Art of Prayer : An Orthodox Anthology , London, 1966 
Colledge, Edmund, O.S.A. 5 McGinn, Bernard, Meister Eckhart , New York, 1981 
Fichtner, Joseph, O.S.C., Theological Anthropology , Indiana, 1963 
Gilson, Etienne, The Spirit of Thomism , New York, 1964 

Kavanaugh, Kieran, O.C.D. § Rodriguez, Otilio, O.C.D., The Collected Works of 
John of the Cross , Washington, D.C., 1973 

The Collected Works of Teresa of Avila , Vol. I, 1976, Vol. II, 1930 
Leclercq, Jean, Contemplative Life , Kalamazoo, 1978--see Epilogue 
MaJoney, George, S.J., Man , the Divine Icon , New Mexico, 1960 
Merton, Thomas, The Wisdom of the Desert , New York, 1960 
Mouroux, Jean, The Meaning of Man , New York, 1948--Chapter 6 

The Meaning of Time , New York, 1962--Chapter 11 "The Mystic and Time.' 
Moynihan, Anselm, O.P., Dominican Ashram , "Dominican Contemplative Life in the 

Church", Nagpur, India, December, 1982 
New Catholic Encyclopedia , New York, 1967 

Vol. VI "Grace and Nature" 

Vol. VII "Image of God" 

Vol. X "Patristic Philosophy-- Image of God" 
"Nature in a Specific Sense" 
Noffke, Suzanne, O.P., The Dialogue of Catherine of Siena , New York, 1980 
Osende, Victorino, O.P., Fruits of Contemplation , St. Louis, 1953 
Peifer, Claude, O.S.B., Monastic Spirituality , New York, 1966 
Squire, Aelred, O.P., Asking the Fathers , The Art of Meditation and Prayer , 

New Jersey, 1973 
Tauler, John, O.P., Spiritual Conferences , St. Louis, 1961 


-86- - 

This paper was written in January 1983 at the request of a Research Committee plan- 
ning to give the results of their study on Dominican Common Prayer in the United 
States. It was to have been integrated with papers addressing the same questions 
from the other branches of the Order to form an Introduction. However _, as their 
report took shape, they saw that it called for a different kind of Introduction and 
the papers originally requested were not used. 


some reflections on the experience of the Dast twenty years 

Let the word of Christ, in all its richness , find a home with you. Teach each other, 
and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and 
hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of 
the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17) 

In approaching an overview of the nuns' common prayer as experienced over the past 
twenty yearsn it is good to think that such an ideal as that offered to early 
Christians at Colossae is becoming more clearly seen and Derhaps more of a reality 
in our monasteries- Surely the reform and renewal of the liturgy in the Church! as 
well as that of Christian and religious life! have had a major impact on our attitudes 
and way of Graying. 

I can write this paper only out of the experience within our own community- However i 
for a broader base I did consult members of three other monasteries and include their 
responses wherever possible- I am also presuming the responses made from all the nuns 
who participated in the questionnaire project last April -Cnfi5> arQ available to you- 

The elements listed as traditional in common prayer •, such as psalms i hymns i Scripture -> 
silence! intercessions! were indeed always a part of our life of prayer — one way or 
another. What we have now come to experience is their inter-relatednessi cohesion — 
something of the fullness of their meaningi not only in common prayer but also in 
private prayer! lectio! study t and the whole of life- I think the key word here is 
UNIFICATIONt wholeness — the reuniting of the elements or values in life and the 
reuniting of Scripture! liturgy! theology! 'spirituality'! or way of life- And the 
axis or center of it all is the Word of God- 

Along with the vernacular! there was now offered to us opportunity in the individual 
Hours for less psalmody! prayed with a meditative pace and pauses between- Ue were 
offered a rich variety of Scriptural texts and the beauty of periods of liturgical 
silence. There was possibility of choice of biblical passages and prayers and a cer- 
tain creativity and spontaneity in the praise and intercessions- After the somewhat 
arduous mechanics of marking and learning new psalm tones i hymns i and rubrics! there 
was for me a gradual realization that we were making a transition into another way of 
praying. I think the first impact was an awareness of being surrounded with the Uord 
of God. Connected with this I would comment on the vibrance and immediacy of the con- 
tinual prayer of the psalms in one's own language and on their gradual becoming one's 
own spontaneous prayer of praise and plea. There is growth in a biblical mentality! 
in an attitude of trust! in awareness of the grandeur and compassion of God in his 
fidelity to his word and creation. There comes a depth of understanding of humankind 
in our sufferings! and in our longing for God! along with sheer joy in his presence- 


The second impression was that we were all in some way related differently to one 
another in community prayer than we had been before- It made a difference that we 
were doing this together. There was now less formality-, fewer rubrics- The emphasis 
on fulfilling an obligation gave way to prayerful attitudes in listening to the Uord 
of God and responding together in silence or song- 

One of the sisters I consulted remarked about the "basic growth in the richness 
of liturgy as related to contemplative prayer and prayer as a community-" She said-. 
"The vernacular rendition of the liturgy and the other liturgical reforms have been 
such a GIFT to our contemplative life! The difference in input to our contemplative 
life through the liturgical revisions is experienced even more forcibly in the 
Eucharistic Liturgy which now draws us into a oneness of celebration that previously 
we knew more by faith in a dogma than by the actual experience of joyful unity with 
Christ and each other that now pervades our celebration." Sister also remarked that 
the reduction in the amount of psalms -i etc-i in the Liturgy of the Hours has not re- 
duced the time spent quantitatively in liturgical prayer- "But-." she said-, "we have 
rejoiced in the employment of that time as qualitatively enhancing an atmosphere of 
contemplative prayer which is well served by more meaningful readings variety of 
texts and liturgical silence-" 

Two of the nuns noted that in their communities there was less vocal prayer outside 
of liturgy now than formerly. One of them explained: "Through liturgical revisions 
and introduction of vernacular the redundancies became apparent- There was a gradual 
reduction to a minimum of a few which are still meaningful." All of our communities 
pray a third part of the rosary daily-, in common in some way. Also most U.S. Domini- 
can monasteries have exposition and Eucharistic adoration day and night'-, and some of 
them maintain perpetual rosary. 

During the course of the liturgical renewal some of our communities there was a 
stage in the transition of prayer supplied by informal 'shared prayer' by groups of 
sisters-, if not the whole community- For some-, this was part of the Charismatic renewal 
'Shared prayer' might have been a necessary stage for some-, and for others-, perhaps a 
permanent factor in their renewal- 

fly own first reawakening to what is an ancient way of prayer-, whether communal or 
private-, was the use of the Responsorial Psalm in response to the first reading at 
Eucharist. Hearing or reading the Uord of God-, reflecting on it-, trying to assimilate 
it-, responding in prayer through silence-, psalmody or intercession to express praise-, 
thanksgiving-, adoration or need-, and then resting in it as a contact with God — this 
was seen as a way of prayer- These were no longer separate elements scattered through- 
out a day or lifetime-, but rather one organic whole which came to unify prayer and all 
of life- Ue were no longer "getting thingsin"-. but were more conscious of cultivating 
attitudes and gradually trying to grow into a listening contemolative aporoach to all 

For many of us the Scripture readings for Eucharist each dav have become a focus for 
cur lectio-, study and prayer in private- One sister noted a greater emphasis on 
Scrioture in general in these areas of our life-, and also the heiahtened awareness of 
the reverence due the Book of the Uord-. enthroning-, incensing it-, etc--, and the great 
care taken now to be very attentive during the reading of Scripture at liturgy. 
Another sister wrote: "Twenty years ago I felt to an increasing degree-, the dichotomy 
between our common liturgical prayer and my orivate prayer and meditation. "Classic 
spirituality of the recent past-." she continued-, "was very scholastic-, legal-, pious-, 
self-centered and introspective- Liturgy-, even before the reform of Vatican II-. was 
broad-. God and Christ-centered and with an orientation toward the whole People of God- 


I felt the need to be able to see my participation in common liturgical prayer and my 
personal spirituality as a single wholen the one overflowing into the other and 
affecting the whole of my daily life." 

Once againn theni we see that the fundamental growth has been in reunifying the separ- 
ate elements and seeing the life of prayer as a whole t centered on the Word of God- 
Some other aspects of common prayer have been the use of musical instruments other than 
organ in some of the Hours and sometimes at Eucharist- For example ■, the guitar or 
autoharp has been used at the Middle Hoursi Compline and Office of Readings- Organ 
accompaniment can then add a certain solemnity to Horning and Evening Prayer- Prayers 
of intercession at these Hours have also had significance for usi especially in an era 
when compassion and concern for the sufferings and needs of humankind are woven into 
the fabric of authentic Christian living. Much could be said about our own growth in 
compassion that comes from self-knowledge and in mutual acceptance i and their impor- 
tance in integrating us into a community of prayer- 

Little room is left here to scratch the surface of renewal in community life- Our 
horarium is built around liturgical prayer- With our 1T71 Constitutions came many 
changes in the other areas of our life as well- At least two hours daily are spent in 
private prayer and lection and there should also be sufficient time for study. Most of 
us are now free to pray in the place most conducive to prayer for usn and some of us 
are free to arrange the times also- Community life in general and the governmental 
process underwent significant change- There is greater freedomn with an emphasis on 
personal responsibility. There are community discussionsn and there are opportunities 
for interpersonal relationships with one another which we did not enjoy before- The 
community Chapter has come to the fore again as an important factor in government in 
the monastery. The Prioress is able to hear discussions of the Chapter as well as to 
consult individual sisters- We could say this has been for all of us a part of the 
cultivation of the listening attitude referred to above- In community meetings and 
Chapter deliberations we also seek to hear the Word of God-> coming to us through one 

Study has become more important to manyi study especially of Scripturen but also of 
the Fathers of the Churchn liturgyi etc- With the return to the sources called fori 
there has been study of our Dominican origins andn also for usi the study of early 
Christian monasticism and such sources as Pachomiusn Cassiann etc- 

The term 'Dominican Family' might be used more often nown but the reality has always 
been vital for us- As related specifically to common prayern of course we are depen- 
dent on the ministry of our brethren for Eucharist — and this ministry has a deep 
effect on our lives- It is our joy to welcome all members of the Dominican Family 
to share and participate in our Liturgy of the Hours- 

It would seem the past twenty years have brought all of us closer to the realization 
of the exhortation given at Ephesus to some early Christians: sing the words and tunes 
of the psalms and hymns when you are together, and go on singing and chanting to the 
Lord in your hearts, so that always and everywhere you are giving thanks to God who is 
our Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-20) 
It is good to think St- Dominic had heard and lived the same exhortation-' 

Sister Hary of God 
North Guilford 


Sa,Liit Vcmi.yiic and /u.6 lavz $ci tkz LctuAgy 

LJTURGV essentially means a TOTAL EXPRESSION. The original intention is 
an act of worship before God, our sisters and all christians as the gift of our- 
selves to the Lord. We owe this strong and lyric expression to our Founder, St. 
Dominic. He urged the brethren to chant more vigorously for he knew that therein 
would be enkindled a fire that would illumine the world. St. Dominic loved ex- 
pressive gestures. In keeping with the character of these gestures, there is a 
certain lightness and fervor in our Liturgy that is its very style. It is a way 
of thinking and expressing TRUTH in words and actions. 

St. Dominic desired that the contemplative life of his daughters find its 
roots in the tradition of the monastic order. The Nun is one who has been called 
apart into the desert of the monastery to "seek the face of the Lord", to pray 
without ceasing, to make entreaties, yes, but more to praise and thank the Triune 
God. It is the work of the Blessed begun here on earth. She hears the Word in 
faith, proclaims it in love and keeps it in the joyful hope of the coming of the 
Lord. She continues the apostolic prayer of St. Dominic: "Lord, what will be- 
come of sinners?", and she shares in the zeal and compassion of St. Catherine. 
In accomplishing all these things, she is truly a nun of the Order of Preachers. 

The Liturgy is the heart and font of the whole Dominican life and that in 
which its unity is principally founded. In the Liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, 
the mystery of our salvation is present and at work. We share in this mystery, we 
proclaim it to others so that through the sacraments of faith they too may be incor- 
porated in Christ. 

St. Dominic influenced his followers with a deep love for the liturgy. He 
himself was completely committed to it. By profession he was a canon regular and 
his chief duty was to carry out the Sacred Liturgy in the Cathedral of Osma. In 
seeking to make us contemplative apostles, the Order was commissioned by him to 
carry out the Liturgy as an indispensable condition for a deep prayer life. St. 
Dominic was a man of prayer, resembling the Incarnate Word. The supreme act of 
the day was his Mass at which he shed many tears. The Eucharist provides a 
setting for the Liturgy of the hours by which the Order of Preachers desires to 
adore, praise, bless and thank the Triune God in union with the whole Church. 

The early Friars were taught to chant the Hours at the prescribed times even 
when traveling. Our Blessed Founder himself was so faithfully intent on what he was 
praying that he never was distracted by any tumult or noise. He was not content 
to merely give example. He committed his Order to praise from the first moment 
of its existence when he had it incorporated into the family of Canons regular. 

THE LITURGY AND THE APOSTOLATE St. Dominic was a contemplative founding 

an Order whose first commitment would be to praise God. Through the Liturgy of 
the day the Church on earth remains continually in prayer before the throne of 
God. Dominic would have nothing less for his Order. The Holy Patriarch gave his Or- 
der a liturgical base so that his children might bear witness to the truths they 
preach. Singing God's praises in the liturgy we become apostles as we penetrate 
the WORD more deeply and assimilate it into our lives. The Order's spirit becomes 
impoverished when the liturgy recedes into the background of Dominican thinking. 
St. Thomas was devoted to the Eucharist and this love flowed through the Offices 
he composed. St. Catherine desired to read so that she could say the canonical 
hours. She was favored by a miracle and was enabled to read fast and fluently. 


' The desire . to become prayerful must consume the Dominican. Prayer 
sanctifies all of our active works, penetrates the day with recollection and 
renews our basic motivation- St. Dominic wished us to live in our inner cell 
and to be armed with the shield of faith to do battle for souls . He expressed the 
command that the choral obligation of the chanted office was to be sacrificed 
whenever it prevented study or preaching. "The whole world was their cell and 
the ocean their cloister." St. Dominic would have us ponder the Word whether as 
a Nun in the cloister or a preacher who would take that Word to others. 

As the Church is a family, the Mystical Body of Christ, so also is Saint 
Dominic's Order. This mystical bond unites all Dominicans with a deep 
family bond. As head of the Dominican family he presents the corporate worship 
of the whole Order to the Triune God. Since he began this symphony of praise 
and adoration thousands have taken it up. Fr. Gerald Vann elaborates on the 
special branch of the Order the Contemplative Nuns. 

"As Adam needed and was given a helpmate like to himself, so - the analogy 
is - the Preachers needed and were given helpmates to share in their life and work. 
Monasteries would be the Order's centers of energy." 

St. Dominic was a man alert to the needs and trends of his time. He 
succeeded in creating a truly new form of religious life. The Dominican today 
must be faithful to his spirit by recognizing the need for a more meaningful 
liturgy for the Christian people. In the words of our present Master General, 
Fr. Vincent de Couesnongle, O.P., "The courage of St. Dominic, then, is the 
courage of someone who, far from being shackled to a particular past because it 
is the past, takes his stand on the essential and permanent values that the past 
enshrines in order to look straight ahead and go forward. Creativeness , readi- 
ness to change, courage for the future, all of these go together. Let our con- 
fidence be contagious in its firmness . Let us communicate it to others , and 
first of all to the members of our community." (Jan. 15, 1975 I.D.I.) 

Now the Spirit breathes where He will, but in the light of faith, the 
Christian must ask when the gift of contemplation would most likely be bestowed. 
Of all the elements of the Dominican life, the most apt time for infused contem- 
plation is in the celebration of the Liturgy. This experience of divine things 
and mystical union with God is the normal, ( though perhaps rare) ultimate term 
of liturgical participation. The Liturgy is an infallible cause of grace for 
those suitably disposed to it. 

The Liturgy is the action of Christ Himself within His Church. Participa- 
tion in it takes us beyond our petty human actions , even supernatural ones , into 
the transcendant action of Christ. Dominican preaching has its roots principally 
in worship. As Vatican II states: "the liturgy is the summit toward which the 
activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which 
all her power flows.' (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) 

As members of the Order of St. Dominic we are really cannonesses and 
specially deputed by the Church to celebrate the Divine Office. It is the very 
Spirit of God who passes through our lips to sound the eternal praises as we sing. 
The beauty of the psalms has never been surpassed. Our Lord learned and used 
Psalms from His childhood at Nazareth. He was pleased to hear them rendered in 
the Temple. As sons and daughters of St. Dominic we show intense concern for the 
liturgical life of the Order. 


The ancient Order of Preachers, founded by St. Dominic in 1216 is like 
a Redwood tree that stands for thousands of years. Although its roots extend 
through many centuries, yet its leaves are ever green. So, too, it is with the 
Dominican Order. Its antiquity distills the wisdom of the ages and the sap brings 
forth new shoots, giving the tree new life. The Order has ever upheld the Holy 
See. Dominicans were often called upon to defend the Roman Pontiff. Our present 
Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, feels himself a part of the Order from his days 
spent at the Angelicum. He is a scholar of Thomistic thinking. He remains a 
faithful friend to all Dominicans. 

"The Dominican Soul is theocentric. The WORD OF GOD and the Choral Office 
are dynamic means of our sanctification. The Dominican soul finds its joy in pro- 
claiming and singing the supreme grandeur of Him alone Who is." (Philioon) 

The Nuns at the convent of Prouille were greatly loved by St. Dominic. He 
never permitted any lengthy period of time to pass without paying them a visit in 
order to encourage them in their efforts. His ardent energy, beauty of manner, prayer 
and good works exercised a deep influence on the Sisters. 

The Star has never ceased to glow from that noble forehead and now shines 
out from eternity to enlighten all of us. The torch of truth has been carried to 
all of the corners of the world. Thus it is that St. Dominic, the watch-dog of 
the Lord, awaits all of his followers until we are united in that Kingdom of Love 
and all things are caught up into the eternal wonder of the Vision of God. 

Prayer is like a life stream, a blood stream. It keeps us going. So in the 
Liturgy a communion with the Lord and all the heavenly host is possible. The stream 
runs beneath the current that gives expression to our lives. Our destination is the 
Heavenly Jerusalem. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven 
and the first earth had vanished and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy 
City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride 
adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice proclaiming from the throne. 'Now 
at last God has his dwelling among men I He will dwell among them and they shall be 
his people and God himself will be with them'." (Rev. 21:1-4) 

Sister Mary Margaret, O.P. 


'niTr 1 ma ttv 

Among the most interesting features of the last issue of CONFERENCE COikFuNICAIIONS 
was the reproduction of the portrait of our Blessed Father Dominic which adorned 
the inside front cover page, courtesy of the Pogg Art Museum. The succinct cut in- 
formative explanation given below the portrait reveals this image to be the oldest 
surviving likeness of St. Dominic, executed (conjecturally) within a generation of 
the saint's death. The capsulized commentary , informative as it is, couldn't high- 
light the true significance which this portrait possesses: the embodiment within the 
graphic medium of the spirit of prayer alive in our Order. One prayer in particular 
appears vividly expressed, a prayer, a heritage - the "0 LUMEN". 

The immediate effect perceived by the viewer of the 15th century painting is that of 
the translucent radiance given the face and the hands of St. Dominic. G-uido da Sie- 
na, thought to be the artist of this picture, skillfully rendered the technique 
which was largely a carry-over from the early practice of encaustic painting. The 
byzantine tradition, so alive in pre— renaissance Italy, figured greatly in the ar- 
tist's interpretation of his subject. The early byzantine iconagraphers applied a 
highly reflective gold lacquer to a planed wooden board, proceeding then to apply 
thin layers of pigment suspended in hot wax. This technique, called encaustic, was 
abandoned after the Iconoclastic Controversy ended, about the year 550. It was 
superseded by the adoption of es;s tempera .and subsequently the use of oil colors. 
The layered technique, withal, survived the shift in mediums. The luminous glow, 
the effect of the layered application produces a light which suffuses through the 
painted face of St. Dominic's image. It seems that the portrait visually conveys 
the phrase, "C Light of the Church". Our Father's face contains this light; one 
might say the light is immanent to it, St. Paul's words are suggested to the view- 
er: "Cod. Who has commanded light to shine out of the darkness has shone in our hearl 
to drive enlightenment concerning the knowledge of the mlorv of Cod, shining on the 

Pace of Christ Jesus"' \2 Cor. 4:6) 

This passage from Second Corinthians fittingly leads to the consideration of the 
portrait's next lyric representation: "Doctor /eritatis" - "Teacher of Truth". 
One notices St. Dominic's head is enveloped in his capuce, and that he very in- 
tently grasps a book in his left hand. In the description left to us of the eighth 
mode of the "Nine ways of Prayer" of our Father St. Dominic, we read how he used to 
embrace the book of Cod's Word, kissing it reverently before and during lectio. Af- 
ter reading from the Sacred Scriptures, St. Dominic would pull his capuce over his 
head and often bury his face in his hands. In our portrait, we see the saint en- 
gaged, as it were, in the contemplation of the Nerd he has just imbibed in lectio 
divina. As Teacher of Truth, he holds open his right hand "freely pouring forth the 
waters of wisdom", here St. Dominic may perhaps be considering tne text from Job: 
"In his he 

is trienc nrmctsr 

srning it, that it is his possession, that he may ascend to it". 

"Rose of Patience" and "Ivory o^ Chastity" are both trenchantly conveyed by the ex- 
pression on the saint's face. The strongly arched eyebrows, the conviction of the 
mouth, are both suggestive of self-mastery, a powerful element in the edifice of pa- 
tience. The large, beautiful eyes seem to be fixedly gazing within, lovingly turned 
toward the Divine Indwelling Presence. The eyes reflect tne purity of the subject's 


soul, for by their strikingly peaceful fi: itioa, they repeat to us "Sl^ooe: are the 
re of heart for they si. ill .oeo Cod". 

r .; arace, unite us witn tne aiessed . lnis last :;:r:;o is perhaps oest 
spoken by : _ st Df the portrait aside from the actual painted image. The trian— 
- .r or gabled shape, within which the head of St. Dominic is framed, suggests to 
the viewer that our Father's life was a perpetual doxology, his being completely 
>rbea - . the Divine Drinity. Cf importance in relating the idea of beatitude 
i; t >e soli; gold background. Among the ancient iconcgraphers, the gold background 
signified tne celestial glory the subj :t Df tne ioon snared in and reflected. 
ether shades or polychromed backgrounds v. r ere used tc indicate the terrestrial nd 
mundane. While originally this was limited to mosaic work, its adoption in pain- 
ting was a natural addition. dp to tne time of Pietro Lorenzetti or the aid 14th 
century, this formwas still commonly practiced. Tne Florentine Masters Cimabue, 
Giotto ana Dalai ana the Dienese Duccio continued to represent Our lady and the 
Saints within the golden ambiance, crowning their works with the pointed gables. 
It isn't surprising that Cuido da Siena opted to portray our Father Doa.inio in way, as transcending limitations an: raaiating Oca's power and beauty. 

1 a O ! ■*! 

ijii-it of prayer, which, at trie beginning of our consideration, we stated to be 
visually embodied in the painting discussed, continues to araw its vitality from 
hi.:, who brought forth our manner of life. 

ot. Do:.:inio would remain before tne altar or in the Chapter Room 
with his gaze fixed on the Crucified, looking with perfect atten- 
tion ;n .lie. Thus was fcr::.ed in our holy father great confidence 
in Sod's mercy toward himself and toward all sinners, r^ere he al- 
so learned trust in Sod's orotection^f or. his. Order. 

' Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic 

it. Dominic continues to nourish our prayer through his intercession, or rather, 
through his configuration to Christ Jesus, now forever pleading on cur behalf. 

four Father, Dominic, took upon himself tne office of the Word, 
My Only Begotten Sen. And at once he appeared before tne world 
as an apostle, preaching My Word with much light and truth. 

St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue 
ho was a linht claced in tne worla bv .a.ear.s of Mary. 

Sister Mary :f the Precious 31ood, D.P. 
Monastery of lor Lady :' tne Rosary 
Buffalo, »i6w i ... 




A late professor of mine in medieval literature once remarked that 
"a poera suffers at the mere approach of prose; the r.ore it is discussed, the 
more it is robbed of its magic, its charm". 

it is not the purpose of this reflection to set forth the "Adoro te 
devote" as good poetry by almost any definition of that elastic adjective. It 
does speak of sin and grace, cross and glory which are key themes in the lingus 
franca of Christian life and tradition. Anthological readings, however, on 
period pieces like "Anina Christi", "Dies Irae", "Stanat Mater", "Adeste Fide- 
les" and more, would reveal the mind and heart of the Christian pilgrim. Be- 
neath the aesthetic vision of the poet lies the Hystericus singing of the word 
It is eternal and silent music corn in the secret core of being that strikes 
the poet ''s intuitive knowledge afire and moves him to penetrate and burn the 
essence of things . 

On this premise, I must say that the "Adoro te devote" is true poetry. 
It is the song of discovery of one who has seen the divine fire and has heard 
the true silence. 

Listen to the Voice of the poet, as the first verse sets the tone of 
the entire poem. The awe-struck whisper is quiet surrender to Truth, which 
is perceived cy the intellectual and creative powers of the poet: 

"Adoro te devote, latens Deltas, 
Quae sue his figuris vere latitas; 
Tibi se cor me urn totur; subjicit, 
Quia te contemplans totum deficit." 


Unfortunately, even the oest paraphrase is not substitute for these 
Is this an encounter with deep and dazzling darkness while the soul is 

being lifted up to the Sun? 

"Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, 
Sed audita solo tuto creditur : 
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius : 
Nil hoc Verco V^ritatis verius." 

'The Godhead is not an impersonal Whole and Holy. He is perceived as 
Love in the Person of Christ who is adored in the Eucharist and on the Cross 
as Incarnate "./era of God. 

"In cruce late cat sola Deltas, 
At hie latet simul et human itas : 
Ambo tamen credens atque confidens, 
Peto quod petivit latro penitens". 

The Voice speaks of beauty as splendor of form, an essential character 
of being . This is inseparable from contemplation. Mark the quiet acceptance 
in faith, hope and love : 


"?] :as, sicut Thomas aon iutuecr : 
Deu:. za. a . i sure te confiteor : 
rac me ti~i semper :. agis credere, 
In te see::, hacere, te diligere". 

^ . , follow ^he Vcice as it swells line a strea.. of die tilled per i i 
its inversion in the old world and rises towards tne glorified Chxist 01 
the new world . 

"0 memoriaie mortis Domini, 
Panis vivus vitarr. praestans homini, 
Praesta rneae menti de te vivire, 
St te illi semper dulce sapere". 

Saint Augustine and other Ca^nolic writers, including Dante in nis 
.. Paradis ^» ' u =ed°the pelican as literary symbol for the suffering ana dying 
servant/ In these lines, the servant has achieved the stature of the cosmic 
Christ in the Incarnation -Redemption mystery. 

"Pie pellicane Jesu Domine, 
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine, 
Cujus una stilla salvurr facere 
Totum rnundum quit at sceiere". 

The Voice pleads and reaches out in hope to future glory, compared to 
which, the present pilgrimage in faith is only a shadow. 

"Jesu, que::, velatum nunc aspicio, 
Cro, fiat illud quod tarn sitio: 
Ut te revelata cernens facie, t^) 
Visu sir., ceatus tuae gloriae 1 '. 

Our poet is no hyonooist with metaphors and word-imagery. Hence, the 
ooet is stripped of mere verbalism. It is direct, simple ana proiouna ana 
"contains the fundamental doctrine on the Eucharist. Words and symcols cannot 
contain the ineffable. The Eucharist is mystery. Ana ye,, it is rford. 

The ooet loves xhe forms in which God reveals himself. As a mys.ic, 
ne affirms his oneness with the "latens Eteitas", the "thou in nis poem. It 
is a mystical experience from vhicn tne poet emerges with nakedness ox vision 
and spiritual delight, tne leiignx of discovery, of ta^. d *^ e * *£/"* 

altimate reality and at tne same time of having ceen ? :sc ; e «» 
Lover. That is why true poetry is tne celeoration Ox a., i xoriz 

Poetic visior then , is rooted in the poet's detachment from the peri- 
Dhera] waning o? things. Poverty of heart introduces the poet to true con- 
1^:: - ie infinite trasures of reality whic! are .eneatn every suriace 
. veiled. In "Adcro te devote", poetry and tneoloq have met at 
' , .. .- premise: the cognitive and intuitive experience ci ohe niiaen 
^i Tne poet soanis before God in silence and purity, ever alert to receive 

rd into the ieoths of nis reasoning heart. Through contemplation ne 
seeks and'finds one srurce of life and thus, oecomes a channel of its radiance 
: the whole Church. 

Sister Maria Rose : ' the Resurrection, O.P. (3) 
SUM [ - 


(l) One of i'ive EucharisticTtymns for the Feast of Corpus 
Christi, authorship of -which is ascribed to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-12 / 4). 

It is pure Latin poetry in seven verses , each in four lines of trochaic meter 

Latin texi 

(2) The following is a modern English translation from the 

Godhead here in hiding, Whom I do adore, 
Masked by these uare shadows, shape arid nothing more, 
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart, 
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art. 

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived; 
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed; 
What God's Son hath told me, take for true I do; 
Truth himself speaks truly, or there's nothing true. 

On the Cross, thy Godhead made no sign to man; 
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken; 
Both are my confession, both are my belief, 
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief. 

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see, 
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he; 
This faith each lay deeper be my holding of, 
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love . 

thou our reminder of Christ Crucified, 
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died, 
Lend this life to me then; feed and feast my mind, 

Like what tender tales tell of the Pelican; 
Bathe me, Jesus Lord, in what thy cosom ran- 
Blood that but one drop of has the world to win 
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin. 

Jesus, Whom I look at shrouded here below, 
I beseech thee send me what I long for so, 
Someday to gaze on thee face to face in light 
And be blest for ever with thy glory's sight. 

Gerard Manley Hopkins (itM-k-l&b^) 

(3) Excerpted and reworded from an original essay, "The 
Poetic Intuition of Saint Thomas Aquinas" by the same author. Published 
in the Dominican Magazine, Philippines, 1971. 




-mat $ m4t/ U f3un& tjwWJIJj 
net by "trw; yJK<y* 

but b^ 'tfe "fruits 

0p «£$S *901%% 

pEAsf o-p St Aib&rf +m 
breviary crp fti Oro<2,r op Preachers 



Our Father St. Dominic had a great devotion to praying for the holy 
souls in purgatory. Throughout the centuries his sons and daughters have 
carried on this priceless tradition and zeal for souls, whether they be 
on earth or awaiting entrance into paradise. This November 7 marks the 
100th anniversary of the death of a great benefactress of the Dominican 
nuns in Ouillins, France. As members of the same Family and "descendants" 
of this monastery, the perpetual adoration monasteries owe a tremendous 
debt of gratitude to this woman of faith who was not only a benefactress 
of the Ouillins monastery but of all of us. The following is a brief 
account of her relationship with the Nuns of the Order of Preachers. 

Marie Benoite Valentine de la Croix Laval, the Countess of Villeneuve, 
was a woman of immense charity toward the poor and a passionate lover of 
her Eucharistic Lord. Inspired by her own desires and the last wishes of 
her deceased husband, she vowed to build a monastery devoted to perpetual 
adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. A Carmelite community was first 
offered the new foundation. However, due to their small numbers they could 
not fulfill the obligatory stipulation of perpetual adoration. 

The Countess then turned to the Dominicans and Father Antoninus Danzas, 
the Provincial of Lyons. Fr. Danzas had been a spiritual father to Mother 
Mary Dominic of Jesus since her early days at the monastery in Nay. For 
many years they had wanted to make a foundation in Lyons, but with no 
success. Now this unexpected offer was the gesture of Divine Providence 
for which they had been yearning. Fr. Danzas wrote of his gratitude to the 
benevolent Countess. 

"I saw therein the union of two spiritual forces, 
that of the Most Blessed Sacrament and that of 
the Holy Rosary. Our new Dominican monasteries 
of the Great Order all adopt the devotion of the 
perpetual Rosary. It is in choir before the Most 
Blessed Sacrament, that this duty is fulfilled, 
night and day, without any other interruption 
than the Divine Office. To enjoy the sight of 
our Lord exposed in the Sacred Host would be a 
singular consolation for our Sisters, who would 
already have consecrated themselves to the 
devotion of the Rosary of adoration." 

The Countess not only paid for the moving expenses for the five founding 
Sisters, but also built and completely furnished the Eucharistic Chapel and 
monastery large enough for 48 Sisters. Every year she would send a donation 
to supply all the necessary candles. Mother Mary Dominic and the other nuns: 
1 professed, 2 choir novices, and 1 lay sister novice, arrived in Ouillins at 
11:00 a.m. on Friday, January 24, 1868. The devoted Countess provides us 


with interesting information regarding the early days of the community. Her 

accounts include the nuns' arrival in Ouillins, their later transfer from 

the temporary housing to the permanent monastery, the beginning of enclosure, 
and the blessing of the monastery bell. 

The new community experienced remarkably rapid growth. Once when a 
Sister commented upon this, Mother Mary Dominic replied, ".Ah, that is the 
blessing of Mme. de la Villeneuve." 

In the IS years of the monastery's existence before her death, the 
Countess "never ceased to surround it with her delicate attention, identifying 
herself with its joys and sorrows, often coming to the aid of its needs. She 
loved to unite herself to the day and night adoration which was kept there in 
her name, and which she offered to Jesus as a perpetual "Deo Gratias!" She 
expressed her union with the nuns in a letter to Mother Mary Dominic. "How I 
long to see you again, my dear Mother. Meanwhile I enclose myself, heart and 
spirit, in the dear convent, and all my prayers and Communions shall be in 
union with you to draw down blessings upon the Council." 

The chronicles of the monastery describe her profound humanility. "She 
strove only to efface herself in every way, and far from taking advantage of 
her title of Foundress to try to have a part in the councils or administra- 
tion of the community, it was all we could do to make her accept the simple 
marks of deference which we owed her. She did not even wish to have a place 
of her own in our outside chapel; rather, at ceremonies, she could be found 
taking the lowest place, losing herself among the simple faithful. She 
desired only one recompense: to see her divine Master ever more loved and 
glorified by those who were the happy heiresses to her pious generosity." 

This generous Countess died peacefully on November 7, 1883 after a long 
illness. Her heritage of eucharistic piety and charity toward the Dominican 
nuns was continued by her daughter until the latter ' s own death in March 1924. 

On the occasion of the death of the Countess of Villeneuve, the monastery 
chronicler wrote the following tribute. These loving words should echo in the 
hearts of all Dominican nuns who share in the beautiful tradition of 
perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. ' 

It was a result of a vow made by her, that 
Mme, de la Villeneuve founded this house, 
stipulating perpetual adoration as the 
condition essential to her work. .And so we 
shall never forget that, after God, it is 
to her piety that we owe the favor of 
living at the feet of Jesus Hostia, since 
it was her love for the Divine Eucharist 
which enriched our blessed abode with day 
and night adoration. 

May God bestow the fulness of his glory upon her soul. 

Sr. Mary Jeremiah 
Lufkin Monastery 

(The above information was taken from, The Life of Mother Mary Dominic of 
Jesus , P.P. , by Mother Mary Bernard, O.P.) 


A Distinctive Identity: Dominican 
Contemplative Huns 

This present series of investigations and reflections into our identity 
as Dominican contemplative nuns, has been our response to some of the 
questions and perplexities expressed by Sister Elizabeth from Cameroon, West 
Africa in last year's Saint Dominic's Day Newsletter. Certainly, her question- 
ing was timely and has served us well as a stimulus for our sharing in 
Conference Communications. It is not a passing whim nor a critical spirit that 
urges us to position ourselves more clearly in our "chosen" role in the Body 
of Christ. It is clearly in accord with the instructions of the Second 
Vatican Council that we should attempt such an inquiry. What has been happen- 
ing for over the past decade, from the viewpoint of constitutions and official 
documentation, is now put before us as the personal quest of one of our sisters, 
eliciting personal reflection and response from us as individuals mutually 
possessing this distinctive identity of Dominican Nuns. 

According to the mind of the Church each religious institute should be 
distinctive. These differences and distinctions are a precious heritage coming 
to us from the inspiration of our founder, Saint Dominic, and from the develop- 
ment and growth of the Order's traditions. The Dominican Order has an expecially 
rich heritage, it "...has a breadth that corresponds to the breadth of the 
Church itself..."* This spectrum of values is toowide to consider fully here, 
so I would like to attempt some reflection on one characteristic that is a 
noteworthy distinction in our identity as Dominican Nuns. 

The distinction is one which is often the cause of some perplexity for nuns 
and brethren and that is our possessing the same spirit and founder, although 
the nuns maintain a monastic enclosed life and the Brethren are committed to 
active apostolic persuits. To cope adequately with this distinction it is 
necessary to view , as briefly as possible, an important wedge of our history. 

It is well documented that Saint Dominic's primary goal in establishing 
his new order was to create an order of preachers, that is, of men: priests to 
preach the gospel. This seems to place the nuns in a somewhat ambiguous position; 
their coming into existence is something of an appendix to our founder's primary 
scheme. Fr. Simon Tugwell states that "...the nuns, initially, were founded 
simply because there was a need."** The "need", as we all well know, was to provide 
for the women converts who had been won through Dominic's early preaching with 
Bishop Diego, in France. "After their return to the Church it was essential to 
find for these women a form of life no less exacting than that of the [[heretic] 
Perfect, for a conversion should never signify a diminution of generosity. . . 
Diego was never at a loss. He decided to set up a convent."*** When an attempt 
to insert these women into an already existing monastic order proved a failure, 
Dominic initiated the women into a new monastic order. He gave them his time and 
talent, his goals and ideals and fully affiliated them to the one Order of Preachers. 
Thus, history establishes our Dominican identity and tradition affirms and 
interprets it: 

Anselm Moynihan, OP Dominican Ashram, Dec 1982 pg. 155 
Dominican Contemplative Life in the Church. 

** Simon Tugwell, OP. Early Dominicans, Selected writings; Paulist Press 
pg. 27 Introduction: VI 

*** M.-H. Vicaire, O.P. Saint Dominic and His Times pg. 118-119 


"...the contemplative life of the nuns contributes most 

importantly to the apostolate of the Order, not only 

because, like other contemplative souls, they offer 

their life and prayer to God to supply the apostolic 

needs of the Church, but also because their life and 

contemplation, as far as they are really and truly 

Dominican, are from the beginning essentially ordered 

to the apostolate. . ." 

P. 4 Constutions of the Nuns 

Letter of Fr. A. Fernandez, Master General 

Although Dominic did not provide the nuns with a detailed agenda for 
future reference to inform them of his "intentions", his actions speak, and 
his actions have indicated very clearly that the nuns are, necessarily, an 
integral part of the Order. 

As a founder, Dominic understood the contemplative dimension of the 
apostolate. There was no difficulty for him in combining the active and 
contemplative, the masculine and feminine branches of the Order. Consequently, 
the true "need" which gave the Dominican Nuns their birth, was that, not only 
of the moment in 1206, but of the Holy Spirit's own vision of the Order which 
transcends the limited vision of the human intellect. Dominic proved himself 
to be the human instrument, finely tuned, to allow God to engineer His own 

Saint Dominic has given the Church an Order that "speaks" and we, the nuns, 
are truly "partners" in that speaking. "It is for the nuns to seek in secret, 
to ponder and pray, so that the word which has come forth from the mouth of 
God may not return to Him void..." * This concept is certainly not mere poetry. 
It is a dynamic and indispensable reality. 

It may be that this reality has not always been understood in a truly 
enlightened manner in the past. Inadequate education, cultural and religious 
influences of an excessive amount have contributed, during many (if not most) 
periods of our history, to the lack of a consistently mature monastic 
spirituality for the nuns. Consequently, we, the Nuns of the 20th Century 
emerge as pioneers of the authentic value of monastic life and contemplation, and 
its purpose for the Order of Preachers and for the Church, for we are positioned 
in time with advantages of insight, information, and inspiration, as well as 
educational and cultural benefits, which allow us to comprehend our true purpose 
and calling as no other group of nuns in the Order have been privileged to do. 
We have at our disposal the possibility of knowing who we are and why we are 
Dominican Contemplative Nuns with a clarity and conviction surpassing previous 
generations. when we look to the past, as certainly we must, we need not 
sentimentalize the "image" of the Dominican Nun. The soundness of our inheritance, 
whether or not it was adequately understood and fully nutured in the past, lies 
in the sharp, clear, unmistakably urgent commission given to us today by the 
Church and the official document of our present constitutions. 

* Basic Constitution of the Nuns, pg. 6 
1. SII (2) 


Our apostolate as nuns is one of self -withdrawal (a fact we do not wish 
to relinquish). It is because of our conviction that we, who have heard the 
word, must devote our entire lives to keeping it and loving it, that we provide 
the "ground' 1 of witness to the power and purpose of the word which the Brethren 
seek to sow. Our love for the living Word, Jesus, and for His gospel, and our 
desire that it should be spread to others urges that those who give the Word 
in action be, themselves, conteraplatives in their action. For the gospel, even 
when it is preached, can remain merely an "external" thing. And "Every influence 
brought to bear upon a man from outside founders powerlessly before the ultimate 
sanctuary wherein that which is meant to influence takes place." * Thus, our 
prayer, our withdrawal, is a testimony that the gospel is aimed at the innermost 
center of the person, a region which can be actually reached by Qod alone. 
Therefore, by desire, love, attention and prayer in submission to the Word we 
have received, we wish to accompany the invisible word as it is uttered anew to 
the hearts of men. 

"It is just because the care of souls is thus, 

essentially, prayer, that pastoral love, particularly 

when it softly enters into the abyss where a man is 

alone with the God of his heart, remains humble and 

pure and leaves the other alone with the living God 

inspite of the loving proximity with him thus discovered." ** 

Of this, we are convinced, that all true apostolate, is, in its deepest 
essence, prayer. The very fact of our existence alongside the active preaching 
of the Brethren is a summons to them to truly give the word of salvation. 
Never must they become mere propagandists "a sounding brass or tinkling cymbal." 

We who listen to and meditate upon the word must also be challenged by 
the active pull of the Brethren to examine and test ourselves in the matter we 
profess to cherish in our hearts, for we must not be barren, but truly labor to 
bring forth fruits worthy of our call: the perfection of charity among our sisters 
with whom we share our lives. As nuns we "speak" by what we are before God and 
each other. It is our faith which activates the word we receive in our .hearts 
and allows it to be sent forth by the Holy Spirit. How this is effected in others, 
in those who preach or hear the word, we are not always permitted to understand. 
Nevertheless, God does, at times allow some glimpse of insight into this mystery 
to assure us of its reality and encourage us. Let me share one such occasion 
when I was given this encouragement by the Lord: 

On one occasion as I tried to express myself to the priest in confession I 
decided to insert a quote from scripture to emphasize my point. My attempt became 
a rather embarrassing commingling of words which hardly deserved the title of 
"quote"! Father graciously refrained from correcting my obvious blunder and spared 
me further embarrassment. However, as he concluded his word of counsel regarding 
the matter for confession, he inserted the advice that it would be a good idea for 
me to attempt to memorize some passages from scripture some time. I accepted the 
suggestion and decided to choose a psalm which I practiced memorizing, and 
consequently meditated upon. 

* Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations Vol III, p. 266 
"The Consecration of the Layman and the Care of Souls." 

** Ibid., pg. 271 


IXiring this time the priest, whose advice I was following, was called 
out of the vicinity for a number of weeks. On his return, the first time 
he offered Mass at the monastery since hearing the confession mentioned, the 
homily he preached utterly amazed me. The subject of the homily was the very 
psalm I had been memorizing.' He did not simply make a remark about one or 

two verses, but took the entire psalm, verse by verse, and commented on it 

this was the whole of his homily. It was impossible for him to have known that 
I had utilized that psalm to fulfill his recommendation, the fact was known 
only to God and me; it was totally the working of the Holy Spirit. Since this 
incident occurred I h^ve felt a deep conviction of the reality that the 
"word" does, in very truth, become bread for others "with a hidden fruit fulness"* 
whenever we "feed" upon it. 

Sister Marie of the Incarnation 

* Basic Constitution of the Nuns pg. 6 
1. SV 



When asked to write on the expression of our identity in our revised 
constitutions, by our local contact person for Conference Commu nications , 
I wondered what I could possibly write about and how I would go about study- 
ing on the subject. While the discussions took place before the completion 
of them, at the time of receiving the actual texts in 1971, and in the years 
of living them that have intervened, I have not thought much of this aspect. 
Actually, after having learned the Gillet 1930 Constitutions practically by 
heart, with the presumption that I would have these rules for the rest of my 
life, I did feel a little threatened on first impulse; (I almost always am 
afraid of change!) However, the new Constitutions as a whole are not a 
pulling out of all the supports, changing of all the rules, dismissing of 
all the practices, etc., etc. It is the same rule expressed in the style of 
a Cloistered Dominican Nun of the last quarter of the 20th century. 

With this in mind, I decided to research into past Constitutions wonder- 
ing if I could identify our illustrious ancestors by their Constitutions, 
namely the recent past, 1864 and 1930. Sure enough, there it was! The in- 
frequent reception of the Eucharist, a detailed commentary on all the articles, 
along with the bloodletting still frequently used in the 19th century! Then 
the Gillet Constitutions showed the influence of Pope St. Pius X's allowance 
of frequent, and even daily Communion! The mention of slaves was deleted in 
the classification of Nuns and the commentary was unnecessary because the 
articles were clearer with a little less minutiae. 

The above is not a mockery of or a belittling of these women who lived 
this rule. No doubt about it, THEY WERE SAINTS. To say that I acquired a 
definite awe and appreciation of their gift to me of this life is an under- 
statement. I have always been grateful to each and every Dominican Nun who 
has handed down to me -- to us -- this beautiful life. Now my appreciation has 
a definite depth to it that it did not have before. 

These two Constitutions were written in the language and usages of those 
eras, thus expressing the IDENTITY of the Nuns of those times. It was inter- 
esting to pursue a synoptical perusal of the three Constitutions identifying 
the Nuns of the latter quarter of the last century, onward into this century 
and us today. From the following examples, I am sure you will agree that the 
rules have not changed that much. It is the way we express ourselves in each 
era. But I think you will also agree that our present Constitutions have a 
freshness and spirit of freedom not found in previous Constitutions. Ironically 
(or happily?) , we get the spirit from the more distant past along with modern 
encyclicals as our present Constitutions so beautifully intersperse the libellus , 
primitive Con stitutions . Gaudium et S pes , Venite Seorsu m, etc., etc. 


The Sisters will keep 
silence in the oratory, 
etc., etc... in all the 
parts of the monastery 
they may speak with a 
special permission, and 


#200. Since it is a beau- 
tiful and most useful ob- 
servance, conducing much 
to the formation of the 
religious spirit, to peace 
of soul, and to the love 


52. SI Blessed Domi- 
nic "rarely spoke ex- 
cept with God, in pray- 
er, or about God, and 
he warned the brethren 
about this matter." 





should be exact not to 
exceed the limits of 
this permission . . . 
At table all the Sis- 
ters will keep silence, 
the prioress likewise(!) 
one only is excepted, 
namely, the head Sis- 
ter(?!) , etc. , etc. 
Four of the more pius 
and prudent Sisters 
will be designated... 
no one will go to the 
parlor. . .unaccompanied 
by one or two of them 
or by the Prioress or 
Sub-Prioress. Etc... 
Concerning confessions, 
(similar to #206. . .) 
and the TURN (similiar 

to #207, etc 

of the 1950 Constitu- 
tions .) 

of prayer, let the most 
holy rule of silence be 
kept by the Nuns with all 
diligence in the choir, 

etc except perhaps 

when they have to say some- 
thing of necessity, and let 
it be silently and in a few 
words . 

201. Elsewhere, special 

202. Similiar to our "54. 

203. (I like this one!) 
...the Prioress can give 
Nuns permission to speak; 
nay more a recreation is 
allowed. . . 

204. Let the Prioress be 
cautious against readily 
giving leave to speak. . . 
205. .. sick. . .not bound. 
206. .. confessional , let 
no one speak... of any 
matters other than... 

207. Conversation at the 

208. Let the Nuns accuse 
themselves at chapter of 
deliberate breaches 

Pondering these things 
in their hearts, the Nuns 
should make of their own 
home and especially of 
their own hearts a place 
of silence. 

canon iz at ion is . . . ) 
S 1 1 . Silence should be 
kept by the Sisters, 
especially in places and 
at times appointed for 
prayer, study or rest. 
It is the guardian of 
the entire observance 
and in a special manner 
fosters peace and con- 
templation . 
55.... for fraternal 
charity or .. .necessities 
...should be done quiet- 
ly and briefly. 
54... night rest until... 
Lauds, more strict si- 
lence. . . 

55... other regulations 
... in directories . 

One of the most significant changes in our Constitutions that I noticed was 
the matter of Chapter. I hesitated to make these comparisons because it may 
seem to some that the less recalled the better, and that the long lists of the 
past seem "picky" and sensitive, etc., etc. On giving them a long, hard look, 
however, they looked more to me like the rather practical human shortcomings we 
can fall into and that they are the day to day things that we do fall into, espe- 
cially the light and medium faults. We are embarrassed over them and sorry for 
them. The grievous faults seem to me to indicate that when they are committed 
they definitely indicate that the Sister committing them is in need of help that 
Chapter is not likely to give. For myself, I need Chapter and appreciate it 
very much (like a nice warm bath!) Our 1971 approach seems more inviting than 
threatening. Our community uses a similar format discussed and experienced at 
the 1975 Springfield, 'Illinois , meeting, that is, a time for self-accusation as 
well as for expressions of thanksgiving and asking for prayers for special needs 
of benefactors, relatives and friends. 


Chapter XVII. Slight 
culpe. . . (long paragraph 

Chapter XVIII. Medium 
culpe. .. (long paragraph 


355. through 355. faults 
in general 

556. a. through 1. 
light faults 

55". penance to be given 


74. At the regular chap- 
ter the Nuns, in charity I 
and humility, fraternally ^^ 
gather... for mutual assist- 
ance in renewal and devel- ■ 
opment of the regular life .Hi 


Chapter XIX. Grievous 
culpe. . . (long paragraph 

Chapter XX. More grievous 
culpe (long paragraph 

Chapter XXI. Most griev- 
ous culpe (long para- 
graph follows) 

(1864 and 1930 Constitu- 
tions very similiar. . . . ) 

358. a. through k. 
medium faults 

359. penance to be given 

360. a. through o. 
grievous faults 

361. penance to be given 

362. Nuns who are guilty 
of grievous faults are 
bound to accuse them- 
selves. . . 

363. Definition of very 
grievous fault. . . 

364. a. through g. very 
grievous faults. 

365. penance to be given 

366. through 369. sugges- 
tions for trying to help 
the Sister and what to do 
if this fails. 

370. Most grievous fault. 

371. penances to be given 

75. At least once a 
month. . . 

76. Regular life... is 
considered. . .by self- 
accusation of failures 
or in some other way presiding gives 
a talk on spiritual or 
religious life... makes 
corrections. . .and pray 
for benefactors. 
77... accuse themselves 
only of those failures 
or defects contrary to 
the rule... which do not 
involve loss of one's 
good name. 

78. Corrections and 
suitable penances. 

79. Postulants and nov- 
ices may attend part... 
they have their own 
Chapters . 

These are only two of many examples I could include as a comparative study 
showing how the present Constitutions express our Dominican IDENTITY in these 
last 25 years of this second millennium. 

I found this study very enjoyable and a source of contentment to me that I 
am a Cloistered Dominican Nun striving to live these rules of antiquity today as 
we now have them. It gave me a beholden look into my roots and an even more be- 
holden look at our life lived presently. 

Father Dominic provided means for his sons and daughters to be men and women 
of their own times, serving the Lord faithfully, in harmony with their traditions 
and the demands of their times. In other words, our identity is not hampered but 
protected and encouraged both as people of our times and as Cloistered Dominican 
Nuns by these periodic renewals of our laws. Our pilgrimage to our Homeland is 
made by us not by our ancestors although we rely heavily on the steps they trod on 
their roads before us. Our roads are a little different and therefore the signs, 
having the same basis, are tailored to our valleys and hills. Yes, with the Fer- 
nandez Constitutions, I am allowed to be a woman of today and a daughter of Saint 
Dominic of the 13th century. HOW GLAD I AM OF THIS!! BLESSED BE GOD!! 

Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, O.P. 
Monastery of the Infant Jesus, Lufkin, Texas 


In qua community, a iwlttzn bt&tzmznt on the. voutt 
ci bubmJXtzd to tkz monaAtzny councJJ. and chaptzn. pK^ioh. 
to &AJU>t pno^z.i>6ton. Thz ^ollouiing thouglvti wzsiz put 
togztkzn. ZaAt fzbnuuiAy &on. t'nat puApa>z. 


Have this mind among yourselves 

which is yours in Christ Jesus, 
who, though he was in the form of God, 
did not count equality with God 

a thing to be grasped, 
but emptied himself, 
taking the form of a servant, 
being born in the likeness of men. 
And being found in human form 
he numb led h imse I f , 
and became obedient unto death, 

even death on a cross. 
Therefore God has highly exalted him 
and bestowed on him the name 

which is above every name.... 

(Phi I . 2:5-9) 

The document on religious life promulgated by the Second Vatican Council 
is commonly referred to as "Perfectae Caritatis," from the opening words of 
the official Latin text. All those who make religious profession within the 
Church are vowed to "the pursuit of perfect charity through the exercise of 
the evangelical counsels." (Perfectae Caritatis, I) 

Since Vatican II there has also been increased emphasis on the fact that 
a I I chr ist ians are called to holiness by virtue of their baptismal commitment. 
And this holiness is necessarily made manifest in love. "For charity, as the 
bond of perfection and the fulfillment of the law, rules over all the means 
cf attaining holiness...." (Lumen Gentium, 42) And this love is necessarily 
nurtured in prayer, self-denial and service. 

From the earliest christian centuries, renunciation has been at the 
heart of monastic life. The first monks left family and possessions, remained 
celibate, and practiced some form of obedience, either within a cenobitic 
community or under the guidance of an elder who labored with the aspiring 
anchorite "until he got to know himself." (Bohairic Life of Pachomius, 10) 

John Cassian presents his theory of monastic renunciation from a slightly 
different point of view: levels or stages of ever-deepening self-denial. 
In Conference III he speaks of the triple renunciation required of the monk: 

The first is that by which as far as the body is 
concerned we make light of a I I the wealth and goods 
of this world; the second, that by which we reject 
the fashions and vices and former affections of the 
soul and flesh; the third, that by which we detach 
our soul from all present and visible things, and 
contemplate only things to come, and set our heart on 
what is invisible. (Conf. Ill, 6) 


Religious life has often been misinterpreted by the larger christian commu- 
nity, and this credibility crisis has become particularly acute since the onset 
of post-Vatican II renewal efforts. Due to the lack of clarity and consensus 
in our attempts, first to discern for ourselves and then to articulate for 
others, the essence of religious consecration within the Church, the laity 
have perhaps been left with a caricature which identifies religious life with 
Cassian's first renunciation. The act of physically entering a monastery, 
and thereby abandoning the exercise of certain basic human prerogatives, does 
not ipso facto yield the ultimate fruit of religious consecration: namely, 
perfect charity. We experience our own limitations in this regard, and they 
are certainly observable from without. 

The first renunciation is where we are most different from our fellow 
christians. And yet this is not where we leave them in order to meander along 
a path that is totally other. Monastic writers have focused on the second 
renunciation as the key to the whole development and work of the monk. Para- 
doxical ly, in this life-long warfare with the demons within, we meet again our 
suffering brothers and sisters. 

Cassian insists that the visible goods which we forsake by the first 
renunciation are not really our own possessions at a I I . We who are sent forth 
as stewards of the good things of God's creation have no inalienable rights 
over material things, especially when our sinful propensity to grasp and hold 
impinges on more fundamental rights of our fellow human beings. The early 
American Indian was startled by the European intruder's offer to "purchase" 
land. It had never occurred to him that the God-given ground under his feet 
was subject to such an arbitrary title transfer. 

The same threat of illusion holds true in our interpersonal relationships. 
We do not own the loved one, the friend, the spouse, the children. Yet the 
egocentric impulse underlying our anxieties and tensions and conflicts is this 
subtle tendency to possess, to have our will of the other, coupled with the 
fear of being left alone. Love is ill-served when there is no labor spent on 
purifying these distorted affections of the heart. 

At the core, it is always an issue of control, Genesis replayed: the 
will of the individual seeking to set itself up as god. And this too is con- 
sistently doomed to frustration. The creature cannot be other than the created 
one, intrinsically dependent. 

The pleasures of possession are very real; the possession itself, tenuous 
at best. Thus, all that we renounce in a concrete way by our religious pro- 
fession can only be the first step. It is not an essential step in the journey 
toward perfect charity. But through this initial movement we are called, and 
choose, to strip ourselves of the tangible expressions of our more deep-seated 
illusions with regard to God, ourselves, our neighbor, and the rest of the 
created universe. 

The first renunciation is not a rejection of the good things of this 
world, but a clearing of the way. This detachment gives us the space and 
freedom to look within, to delve into the hidden recesses of the heart. In the 
silence and prayer that must feed and support this work, we are brought to 
recognize ourselves: poor, alone, utterly dependent. For those who do not 
travel the way of the first renunciation, this inner journey is merely postponed 


The second renunciation confronts us with the challenge to cast away all 

that we truly do possess: our sinful inclinations, passions, vices, unruly 

affections. Cassian explains that these vestiges of our former life cling to 
body and sou I : 

And therefore these are our very possessions, which 
continually remain with the soul, which no king and 
no enemy can either give or take away from us. These 
are our very own possessions which not even death 
itself can part from the soul, but by renouncing which 
we can attain to perfection.... (Conf. Ill, 8) 

This is the work of the monk. In attempting to be faithful to our religious 
profession, we wage a constant Dattle on everything within us that resists 
convers ion . 

This is our peculiar work, our covenant responsibility. But le - *" js net 
lose signt of the fact that this second renunciation overtakes even those wno 
are not vowed to make a "career" of it. We are one with them in the suffering 
entailed by this process of purification, and we should be humbled by their 
steadfast enristian fidelity and charity in the face of tremendous obstacles. 

We profess poverty, a I i f e of inner and outer simplicity, following 
Christ who, though he was rich, became poor for our sake. (2 Cor. 8:9) 
As we struggle to deepen our understanding and live an authentic response to 
this GosDel invitation, both as individuals and as communiTy, we cannot ignore 
the contemporary ravages of poverty in a world that does noT elect to embrace 
it. The scandal of hunger and sub-human housing conditions; defense expenditures 
that deplete our international resources; family and friends who are experiencing 
real deprivation, economic insecurity, unemployment. Our own profession of 
poverty, our growing consciousness of a radical inner poverry and sinfulness, 
must be seen in relation to this universal disorder in creation. The greed 
and distorted values which we encounter in our own hearts are the very same 
evil that is undermining the physical and economic welfare of our neighbor. 
And we believe that this evil which we conquer within ourselves, by the grace 
of Christ, must likewise yield place in the world at large. 

We profess chastity, celibacy. This vow frees us "to hang extravagantly 
around the Lord without being distracted" — as Andre Louf translates St. Paul's 
exhortation to virginity. (I Cor. 7:35) It also unveils our radical aloneness 
before the living Word of God, who discerns the thoughts and intentions of the 
neart. We are open and laid bare to the eyes of him to whom we must render 
account. (Heb. -1:12-13) We live in Presence. Judgment, for us, is a vibrant, 
daily reality; not a final confrontation, when all earthly support has been 
forcibly stripped away, but an ongoing naked trust in the saving Lord who is 
our sole refuge. 

The original meaning of the term monachos , monk, was simply "celibate," 
one who is alone. From the roots of our se I f -commitment there springs a 
spontaneous compassion for those who endure the shock of inflicted aloneness. 
Death, divorce, illness, every type of rejection and betrayal — we are all 
acquainted with victims of severed relationship. In the depths of our own 
hearts we experience the lust and envy and anger that are the seedbed of 
violence and enmity. Just as the love of Christ compels us to deeds of 


conversion, to minister and witness to one another with sisterly care within 
the monastic family, so should the integrity of our voluntary aloneness be a 
sign and support for the larger christian community in its suffering. Our 
lives must proclaim that the Lord is indeed close to the broken-hearted, that 
there is still love beyond the frightening emptiness, and even within it. 
"The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered .. .and will 
leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me." (Jn. 16:32) 

We profess obedience, as a gift of the total self surrendered to the 
action of the Lord who is at work in us "both to wi I I and to work for his 
good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13) The paradigm of this loving union and filial 
dependence is the whole abba-orientation of John's Gospel. Jesus feeds on 
the will of the one who sent him. (Jn. 4:34; 6:38) He does nothing of his 
own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing (5:19). He judges on the 
basis of what he hears from the Father (5:30; 8:16). His teaching is received 
from the Father, whose glory he seeks in all things (7:16, 18). The one who 
sent Jesus is with him and does not leave him alone, for he always does what 
is pleasing to the Father (8:29). In the strength and certainty of this 
indissoluble bond, in the knowledge of this unfailing charity, Jesus loves 
his own in the world and loves them to the end. Knowing that the Father has 
given all things into his hands, and that he has come from God and is going to 
God: Jesus rises. ..and serves. (Jn. 13:1-4) 

When the self is not centered and rooted in a personal transcendent love, 
it strives to assert itself over against the other: fear and aggression 
flourish. Where the will-to-power is the overriding concern, there is no 
room for fellowship and service - only isolated alienated individuals. 

The beginning of obedience is the attentive listening in prayer which 
hollows out within us a space of humble faith and receptivity — because 
everything comes to us as gift, from one who is called Father. Raised up in 
this Word of love, we are free to open ourselves to the other. We are willing 
to be shaped and transformed by all that happens in community. Defense is no 
longer the all-consuming preoccupation, and, following the example of Jesus, 
we can rise and serve. This incarnat iona I and pachomian accent on love and 
service, as fruits of lectio, prayer and the inner work, reveals something of 
our Dominican monastic identity. 

Our Constitutions tell us that the vow of obedience is outstanding 
because it draws us more surely toward the end of our profession, which is the 
perfection of charity. The whole community of believers is learning obedience 
through all that it suffers in this world. We serve it best by letting the 
transparency of our consecrated lives witness to the truth that obedience is 
prayer is love. 

Sister Claire, OP 
North Gui I ford 



Albert the Great, The Saints of Brittany , t.I. 

"We read the ancient stories of Brittany , that Hoel I, sixth in the order of the Kings 



of our Armor ic Brittany , had three male children , prince Hoel, who succeeded him on the 

throne; Agriol or Agricol , who lived in Great Britain where he was made a knight of the 

Round Table by King Arthur the Valiant, his uncle; the last one was William, a heroic I 

and courageous young prince to whom his father the King gave the commission to pursue 

the Visigoths after their defeat in Berri and Aquitaine , a task which he accomplished | 

successfully , having chased them to Spain where he was stopped by a young woman, 

daughter of Don .Vugues de Guzman, lord of Rou , whom he raised, and in their descendants -^m 

the blood of the Guzmans was mixed with that of Brittany ; they, not wanting to lose the ^P 

honor of so noble a heritage , kept the name Guillen, that is to say William, commonly 

used by their family, and taken as a coat of arms by half of those in Brittany ; they | 

placed on their silver shields five ermines taken from a sable arranged cross-wise 

with eight golden solitaires around the edge; these arms were carried by Don Felix de I 

Guzman, father of St. Dominic, and the counts of Cevients and Almasa kept them as names 

and arms of the house of Guzman. .. .St . Dominic, to give a coat of arms to his Order, ~Sm 

didn't go elsewhere , but rather took it from his own home and family, changing only the ^^ 

way in which the parts were disposed so that they would be more devotional and in keep- ^- 

ing with the profession of those belonging to his Orders, who, under his example, had _| 

embraced the cross of Christ, leaving aside one of the five ermines of his house and 

arranging the other four in the form of a cross, half of which was white and the other \ I 

black, with the four pieces end to end. . .A remarkable antiquity , having been found to 

have been neglected either by time or hidden from writers, buried in the tomb of forget- T~u 

fulness, which I deemed warranted to be brought to light here in its proper place. ^^ 



courtesey of Sister Marguerite, S.S.J. , College of Our Lady of the Elms, Chicopee MA.) 

Sister Mary Louis Bertrand, O.P. M 

West Springfield 




vie axe all familiar with the exhortation of Vatican Council II that Religious 
Institutes should be loyal to the spirit of their founders. This will be best 
realized if the individual members know and love the spirit of the founder and 
strive to live according to that spirit. This is very true .and very important 
'cut our weak human nature, sometimes becoming accustomed to hearing a truth re- 
peated often, fails to give sufficient consideration to the fullness of its meaning. 
What do we know about the spirit of our holy Father St. Dominic? In what ways is 
it applicable to cur Dominican contemplative life today? 

In the treasured antiphon that we sing after Compline every night we call our holy 
Father "Light of the Church". A light is seen more clearly when its surroundings 
are dark, otars show brightly in the night sky but, although they are still there 
we don't see them in the daytime. Our holy Father's day, like our own, was a dark 
time for the Church and for the world. Cur Lord said, "Let your light shine before 
men", Why? "So that they may see your good works and give glory to the Father". 
how can we let our light shine before men? Good example is the light that we must 
diffuse. It is the best way we have of helping each other and of showing to the 
world that the religious life, truly lived according to the mind of the Church has 
outstanding value in today's confused world. To quote Vatican II once again, "Re- 
ligious should not forget that the good example of their lives affords the highest 
recommendation for their community and the most appealing invitation to embrace the 
Religious Life". We know that when we entered the monastery we were looking for 
true religious life and we knew that this would demand self-sacrifice. We have in 
our everyday Community life many opportunities for self-sacrifice. These are the 
means of our own sanctification and of cur giving good example to our own Sisters - 
letting our light shine, not for our own honor but to give glory to Cod. 

Cur holy Father is also called the "Doctor of Truth". In his day as in ours, error 
and false teaching were rampant and many Catholics had fallen away from the truth, 
no himself was always faithful to the Church's true teaching and led many away from 
error and back to the truth. We can follow his example in this by studying, being 
aware of and faithful to the the true teachings, especially en points where false 
ideas ana theories are widespread, for example, the meaning, purpose and value of 
the religious life and what the Church expects of religious. Jy his faithfulness 
to the truth St. Dominic was a light in the darkness, the dog with the torch in its 
mouth, running through the world spreading the light and fire of truth. We are not 
expected to preach to the world as he lid. This is not the purpose for which he 
founded the nuns of his Order, as our Constitutions tell us, "the manner and ex- 
tent of the studies is always to be determined in relation to the objective of the 
contemplative life". Cur study must be seen in perspective. Its purpose is to 
nourisn our prayer-life; to help us grow in the knowledge of God so that we can grow 
in .lis love. Our faithfulness to truth in cur living of the contemplative life 
will be a strong means cf effecting our part in the work of the Order - the sal- 
vation of souls by prayer and sacrifice and helping in a spiritual way our bro- 
thers whose task it is to preach and teach truth for the same end. 



o v ... - t cue Holy Mass celebrated in our Shapel en the feast ox" cur hoi fl 

r ot. Doaiinic, the preacher presented a point about our . ther th : is well ^F 
v;orth our ccnsiu^rnticn. he referred tc ot. Dominic ac the dog of the Lord, an ex- 

... that - have often heard, but t.:e priest point - . .-.. this dog -a.: tne « 
pet of the herd, a: well .u aow soue of the characteristics of a pet dcg. loo ^| 
loyalty is boundless; its trust ia its master is unquestioning, it h< - no thought 
for its If .; .t :.-h; f . its laster. When the ouster isn't around the iog Looks all ^^ 
over for him. he oar. 't rest until he is with his uaster again and then he is ready I 
tc ia anything for him. As Father said in comparing 3t. Dominic to this dog, he ^f 
:c Ld whistled in any direction to carry that torch. What a picture of the spi- 
rit of obedience and self-sacrifice! l.ere again, our holy father sets the example 1 

_iO , 

..any times it has been saia of our holy Father that he resembled ^ur Lord. Probab- | 

Ly this was because he had such a great love for Jesus and r.oieled his own life so ~* 

closely on the life of Our Lord, he had the "sensus Christi" - the mind of Christ. 

.Lis whole thought, all his interest was absorbed in saving souls - the sane aim fl 

that Our Lord Himself had - the same air. that we must have. The whole purpose of the ^P 

Incarnation, earthly life, passion end death cf Jesus was the salvation of souls. 

It must, tnerefore, be the most important thing in the world! St. Dominic's purpose ■ 

for his Crier was the sane. Cur purpose is the sate and it is important for us to __■ 

keep our purpose always in mind. It is when religious, either as individuals or as 

. . .unities; lose this sense of purpose that they foil to keep the spirit of their ^^ 

founder and fail to be effective instruments for the salvation cf souls. Lvery- I 

thing in St. Dcui.uie's life was directed tc 3od. he had no thought for himself. ^ 

la t/.ese things we can learn to imitate our futner. He can teach us to live in his 

t/.is is the way to cone tc the holiness to v.-hich we 


.. have often ..eari that cur Holy -■ -.tner spoke only tc God or of Cci. Free: this we | 

car. easily conclude that his thoughts ■.•;ere always on the of Cci and his en- — 

centered on led and Cod's work, not on any interests of his own or 

ly transient, hi; heart -..-as full of the Itve of Cod and ' I 

"out of the aoundance of tne heart the mouth speaks". Jod dwelling in hi:..: tjiat 
was the secret. Chat is why he even came to resemble Cur Lord. That is why he 
:ould practice such great self-denial, he was what could be called a man with a m 

one-track mind. Che track led to Cod with no ietour for self, fkac was how he _| 

)uld be a "Rose of Patience", l"Lo sxample :f Jesus' patience was his model ana 

Lration. L..t is why he was always joyous; he was a free man - free with the _ 

Lorn of the children .1 Jod - free fron self. All the self-sacrifice he cm.- M 

., LI the .. he performed, ail the prayer that cane from his heart, were ^ 

'or tl Lon of souls. . 

. .- wil] :c.-.e ;f sinner** 9 " 

.is prayers he v:as sometimes heard to say "C Co t , 

lsed to cay that he would ce willing to be put | 

2 :. . it the - nell so that no ncre souls could full in. '..ny vras nis 
L for sou] great? Because . Lzea tne tremendous price that J-^3~z paid 

... incre - ir zeal for souls fter -.pie? cur Lady said at .^ 

. itima f ". ire .:st because they have n. me t hem. Pray. j__| 
rifices - - - - o". 



Ail the saints are great models and examples for us in one way or another. Read- 
ing their lives is good because they inspire and encourage us in our own efforts to 
attain our longed-for union with led. Cur own Blessed Father is the model for us 
in living our Dominican life because it is he who gave our Order its spirit and the 
more we prayerfully study his life and spirit the better we will be able to live as 
his true children. If we ask him he will surely help us in our efforts because he 
promised the brethren when he was dying that he would be more helpful to his chil- 
dren from heaven than he could be en earth. We knew how solicitous he was for his 
nuns and how exacting he was about their observance. It was important to him that 
they live lives of true prayer and self-denial because it was by these means that 
they would win God's grace for souls and help their brothers in the "holy preaching", 
This is our part in the apcstolate of the Order, and it is important in this time 
of confusion that we ever keep our purpose in mind and not allow ourselves to be- 
come side-tracked by the spirit of the times. The best service we can render to 
our neighbor is to sanctify ourselves. We know the aim and purpose of our life; we 
have the means. Our holy rather, although now in heaven, still has care of his 
children, but we have to be truly his children, reproducing his spirit among us. 
We should ask him to fill the whole Order with his spirit so that it may once again 
run through the world like the dog with the torch in its mouth, spreading the light 
of truth in this day when truth is obscured and even denied. "Fulfill, Father, 
what you have said and help us by your prayers." 

Sister Dominic frlarie of Jesus, 0.?. 
Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary 
Buffalo, hew York 




Avmw^ ^fU 'Wari of (Via Gtfwr 

^ n-umok ba>fis 
to tcaca MS 

5fc Albert -+K«. Qrs.4.1" 

SILENCE : A Monastic Tradition For Today 

by a Itun of the Summit Monastery 

"The greatest ease of communication has caused ^en to live 
in perpetual exterior ^eve-tent: in discussions, meetings, travel, 
the cares of business and a thousand other things which draw them 
away from the interior life. Journals, radio and television pene- 
trate everywhere. . .that with difficulty a time and place for soli- 
tude, silence and contemplation remain. "-*- 

"The average man does not know how to stand still, how to 
appreciate a moment, an event for its own sake. What our religi- 
ous tradition must teach the contemporary man: is to stand still and 
to behold, to stand still and to hear."^ 

These signs of our times cast much light on the vocation of 
the Dominican Nun of today--called with a certain urgency to point 
the way in the desert for contemporary society; called perhaps as 
never before to witness about the absolute necessity of standing 
silent in the presence of Mystery... of listening attentively. 
(Vacate et videte) "Be still and know that I am God." Ps . ij.6. 

Therefore, I would like to single out the "lex sanctissima 
silentii" among all of our observances as deserving special atten- 
tion. Of course, there is some danger in singling out a particular 
practice as the answer to all of our problems. In this regard, 
Thomas Merton once remarked, "Asceticism itself does not produce 
divine union as its direct result. It only disposes the soul for 
union. When ascetic practices are misused, they serve only to fill 
the monk with himself and harden his heart in resistance to grace''. 
While always keeping this in mind, we do note nevertheless that 
silence is praised as the guardian of our entire observance (LCM3?) 
and is possibly more immune to misuse than are our other asceti- 
cal practices. Proficiency in almost anything can lead to a 
certain complacency or self-sufficiency, even to an independence 
from God but one who has attained a truly God-oriented silence 
will experience quite the contrary I Having the facility to undo 
complacency and overmuch self-reliance, it disposes us in a unique 
and powerful way to be receptive to God's grace. A story from 
the "Sayings of the Desert" wisely illustrates this very point: 

"After a short silence the Abba poured some water into a bowl 
and said to the brothers, 'Look at the water'; and it was disturbed. 
After a little while he said to them again, 'Look how still the 
water is now 1 ; and as they looked into the water, they 3 aw their 
own faces reflected in it as in a mirror. Then he said to them, 


'It is the same for those who live among men; disturbances pre- 
vent then from seeing their faults. But when a man is still, then 
he sees his failings. "3 So, silence festers true self-knowledge 
by clearing up our vision a bit and this true, though sometimes 
painful self-knowledge converts complacency (the enemy of progress) 
into a wonderful self-surrender to God. 

Closer to cur own time we find in the "Instructions "of St. 
Jane Prances de Chantal another incentive for cur pursuit. She 
writes, "Indeed, silence is the ornament of religion, the mother 
of prayer and the guardian of the heart. So great are its fruits 
that nothing more is needed to reform a monastery than to restore 
silence. Undoubtedly, the houses that adhere to it with fidelity 
have a strong savor of holiness." Thus, it is not only a value 
that the modern world might re-learn from us--immersed as it is in 
noise aid confusion--but also a value at the very heart of our 
own monastic striving, especially In our present efforts toward 
spiritual renewal. 

The following pages then will touch on five points of consid- 
eration. 1) What is silence? / a simple definition. 2) Why? / 
reasons for monastic silence. 3) How? / varying degrees in the 
acquisition of silence. l±) Silence and Speech. 5>) False silence / 
abuses . 

Dominicans like to begin a consideration with a definition. 
Yet, a real definition (genus & specific difference) is not possible 
in this case 3ince silence is not usually treated as a virtue but 
is rather the proper atmosphere in which the virtues can grow. 
Silence may be characterized as the absence of verbal communication 
but "it is not simply that no word is spoken and no sound uttered, 
This alone does signify silence; the animal is capable of this and 
the rock even more so. Rather, silence is that which takes place 
when he who could speak remains still. Silence means that he (mao) 
who would go forth by speaking, remains in inner reserve; it is 
a knowing, a feeling, a living stillness, a vibration within one- 
self. n h 

Why then silence in monastic life? Beginning with desert 
monpsticism, Abba Ammonas extolls many positive qualities of cur 
heritage: "Behold the power of silence, how thoroughly it heals 
and hew fully pleasing it 13 to God. It is by silence that the 
saints grew, it was because of silence that the power of God dwelt 
in them, because of silence that the mysteries of God were known 
to them. " 

Ancient Benedictine monasticism provides us with three reasons 
for the practice of silence. The first is rooted in the "fear of 
the Lord". The monk keeps silence in order to avoid sin as the 
Prophet councils, "I said, I have resolved to keep watch over my 
ways that I may never sin with my tongue" and "In a flood of words 
you will not avoid sin" (Proverbs 18) 


Benedict had perhaps built on the earlier desert tradition since 
this idea was similarly expressed by Abba Poeman when he warned, 
r If ijian remembered that it is written: 'By your words you will be 
justified and by your words you will be condemned' (Mat. 12:37) 
he would choose to remain silent." 

Secondly, the monk keeps silence for the sake of silence it- 
self or for the good of fostering true inner silence. Because of 
this, he will at times refrain from even positive conversation. 
"I was silent and was humbled, and I refrained from even good 
words." (Ps. 38) 

Finally, silence is very strongly linked with obedience for in 
the Rule it is stated that the monk must first be silent in order 
to listen to the commands of God. The voice of God comes to him 
in the Sacred Scriptures and the teachingof the Masters. Upon 
hearing, the monk may then obey and return to God from whom dis- 
obedience has separated him. 

Carmel provides us with a much different reason for silence. 
Teresa of Avila in "The Way of Perfection" looks at silence from 
another viewpoint and links it with the virtue of penance. "For, 
indeed, it takes great humility to find oneself unjustly accused 
and be silent, and to do this is to imitate the Lord Who set us 
free from all our sins." (NOTE: Teresa is here referring to 
Mat. 26:62-63 "The high priest rose to his feet and addressed him: 
'Have you no answer to the testimony leveled against you?' But 
Jesus remained silent D Teresa continues, "These are great vir- 
tues, my sisters, and I should like us to study them closely, and 
to make them our penance . I deprecate severe and excessive penances 
which may injure the health. Here, however, there is no cause for 
fear; for, however great the interior virtues may be, they do not 
weaken the body, while at the same time they strengthen the soul." 
(The Way...Ch.l5) Later on she does admit how extremely difficult 
this practice can be and also that there may be cases where pru- 
dence would indicate that something be said. 

Outside of the monastic context, even on the purely natural 
level there are reasons for silence. "Silence fulfills an impor- 
tant function in mental regeneration. It is only in the passivity 
of silence that the things that have deeply impressed us may re- 
sound and grow in our soul and strike root in our being "5j "The 
man who is never silent dissipates his humanity. "° 

By far the most important reason for silence is its profound 
relation to prayer. The scriptures point out clearly that silenae 
in the life of Christ is almost always related to His periods of 
prayer. "And when he dismissed the crowd, he went up to the 
mountain by himself to pray." (Mt. lit : 23 ) Christ's Vicar, John 
Paul II continues in the Master^ footsteps and also emphasizes the 
relationship of silence to prayer in the life of religious ; "It will 



oe necessary, therefore, for them to become increasingly aware of 

the importance of prayer in their lives and to learn to dedicate m 

themselves to it generously. To arrive at this, they need the | 

silence of their whole being, and this calls for zones of actual " 

silence and personal discipline in order to facilitate contact 

with God." < 






Silence has been ins tituted, then, especially to calm the mind, 
making it recollected and restful near the Lord. Guardini states, 
"The beginning of all religious life is the awareness that God is. 
Into this most intimate relation with God, we do not come by speak- 
ing, but only by silence; when we are recollected, our inmost soul 
is opened and the sacred presence can manifest itself. "" | 

Many have believed that silence is the beginning of prayer 
but in fact silence may also b_e prayer. "When I am liberated by 
silence, I can discover a form of prayer in which there is effec- 
tively no distraction. Let us seek then this gift of silence, 
and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned to -_ 
prayer... for God is all in all", writes Father I-'erton in our century. | 
But this has its roots as far back as John Cassian who taught in ~~ 
a similar way. "As the monk progresses in the life of prayer he 
will eventually arrive at that state where he can no longer pray 
with words, but will be reduced to silence. This is that ineffable 
prayer that knows no scund of the voice, no movement of the tcngie, 
no pronunciation of words." (Conf. 9.25) "At times the monk's sense 
of compucticn will be such that no words can express what he feels. 
The point of this is that the purest prayer can indeed be silence. 
Silence can be orayer; it can be the realization cf the monks' 
goal." (Conf. 9". 27) 

One might ask whether all this finds a place in the Domini caa 
way and I think we can safely affirm that it does. Apart from 
the example of St. Dominic himself, former Master General Vincent 
do Couesnongle has repeatedly stressed silence and contemplation. 
In his address to the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs 
he said, "Contemplative prayer is to be silent before God; to be 
like God in our silence." The Dominican charism is truly linked 
with the best cf monastic tradition. 

This prayer of silence honors in a special way the Divine 
excellence which 30 completely transcends our finite-human capacity 
to receive or comprehend. One of the Psalms echoes this J "The 
Lord is in His holy temple; silence before Kim, all the earth! " 
Furthermore, the silent soul is a beautiful mirror of the life cf 
God Himself for, "In a gentle breeze He revealed Himself to His 
prophet Ellas. ' The Image of the life of God seems to be the in- 
finite stillness of an all-embracing silence." 10 "When the soul 
penetrates the Divine silence, everything around her becomes quiet. 
What the soul contemplates in the depths of God does not fit into 
the pettiness cf cur' lowly thoughts, but finds a place only in the 
exoressive -.ajesty of a silence of admiration and love." 


How is this silence acquired, since it is such a difficult 
habit to form and communication is second nature to us? There 
seems to be progressive degrees in the acquisition of the habit - 
ever deepening levels, from exterior silence, to the inner silenc- 
ing of the passions and unruly desires, to the profound silence cf 
inner freedom arising from a state of nearly complete detachment. 
In the^ stage of exterior silence we resist the endless chatter 
and noise that fills the world even to the point of avoiding 
voluntarily every word not required by our work or by charity 
(LCM #53). In this way a contemplative attitude is slowly formed 
wherein we live with the expectation in the back of our minds of 
encountering God. 

Exterior silence is part of the work and by far the easiest. 
Another kind of noise is inner turmoil — ,r the whirl of thoughts . the 
drive of desire, the restlessness and worries of the mind, the 
burden ofcare, or whatever fills our interior as the rubble fills 
an abandoned well. "12 "The noise that prevents us from hearing the 
voice of God is not, is truly not, the clamor of man, the racket 
of cities, still less the stirring of the wind or the whispering 
of water. The noise that completely smothers the voice of God is 
the inner uproar of outraged self-esteem, of awakening suspicion, 
of unsleeping ambition. "1.3 More occasions for this inner noise are 
pointed out to us by Jane de Chant al; "Those who are on the watch 
to consider and to observe others will never be occupied with God, 
nor will they come to much good in the ways of the spirit. Such 
occupation means distraction and a continual lack of inward silerce. 
We pay too much heed to outward things. We should not be so eager 
about them, nor let them divert us from God, but looking to Him, 
calm and attentive, do all with a tranquil heart. n As the goal 
of this stage in the struggle toward silence is approached, the 
words of Psalm 131 will have a special significance, "0 Lord, my 
heart is not proud, nor haughty my eyes; I have not gone after things 
too great, nor marvels beyond me. Truly I have set my soul in 
silence and peace... like a weaned child." 

After many of these inner disturbances have been subdued by 
the action of grace, we move on and (gradually approach a deeper, 
a nearly complete silence which is characterized by freedom—the 
wonderful freedom of the "Children of God". This silence is an 
important disposition for receiving the Divine blessings and the 
gift of supernatural prayer. St. John of the Cross explains it 
thus; "Tne soul must be quite disencumbered, at ease, peaceful, 
serene, and adapted to the manner of God; like the air, which re- 
ceives greater illumination from the sun when it is pure and cleansed 
and at rest. Any desire or pleasure to which the soul may conceive 
an attachment , would impede and disturb it and would introduce 
noise into the deep silence which it is meet that the soul observe, 
so that it may hear the deep 'and delicate voice of God which 
speaks to the heart in this secret place, in the utmost peace and 
tranquility, so that the soul may listen and hear the words of God 
when he speaks this peace in it."^ 






While emphasizing the good of silence and the means to achieve 
it, we also want to include an appreciation for the high value and m 
nobility of human speech — that unique gift given to man which sets | 
him above all other creatures. Dominicans have always held the 
word in great reverence, especially the Incarnate Word of God. 
This Eternal Word was uttered in silence and so our own silence 
should give birth to the meaningful word and foster in us a great 
esteem for the value of meaningful communication. Icminican 
silence is carried out in a community atmosphere with the constant m 
giving and receiving that this implies. :T The undulating rhythm \ 

of speech and silence embraces the life of the monastery. When one 
of these dominates and excludes the other, a monastery becomes — 

either a living tomb or the chaos of the market place. The balance I 
of being human tastes both realities in their proper times and 
places. "15 Meaningful communication can and should be a real 
asset in keeping cur periods of silence alive and vibrant. "It is 
necessary that we find tne silence of God not only in ourselves but 
also in one another. Unless some other person speaks to us in 
words that spring from God and communicate with the silence of ^ 

God in our souls, we remain isolated in our silence. For inner 1 

silence depends on continual seeking. He is heard only when we ^ 
hope to hear Him, and if, thinking our hope to be fulfilled, we 
cease to listen, He ceases to speak -- the silence ceases to be I 

vivid and becomes dead." lfc! V 

Silence then, is a value relative to specified times and -^ 

places and is broken perhaps not so much by speaking as by the | 

anxiety to be heard which may be rooted in pride. True and mean- ~ 
ingful speech in the context of monastic silence will above all 

be humble and also usually brief. "Humility is in all things I 

silent. Even when it speaks, humility listens. Tne words of ™ 
humility are the echo of God's silence, and as soon as they are 

"I *"7 

spoken His silence is already present in them."- 1 ' Brevity flows ■ 

from a ~iore direct and uncluttered perception of reality in which J 

we remain face to face with the naked being of things without the 

screen of many words intervening. The intuition born of silence ^^ 

makes us realize that extensive talking about something can in I 

fact cover up the truth and hinder the clarity of our understand- ^ 


The balance of silence and communication in a community _B 
founded on the supreme observance of love will avoid many harm- 
ful aberrations or what has been called "negative silence". 

Here Cassian manifests deep psychological insight: "There is a I 

silence that refuses to forgive another. It does not allow one ^^ 
to speak to another graciously because it is angry and cannot 

forgive." ( Inst. 5.11) "Thus a silent sulkiness can be a sign of jh 

deep and unresolved anger." (Inst. 8.12) " Su«ch an attitude seeks J 
the desert in cowardly flight rather than practicing the patience 

and humility that is needed In human intercourse ." (Inst . 8.18) ^^ 

"Such silence is not a virtue and Is not desirable. It is a bitter j ■ 

silence which refuses to accept or to rake an apology. It is a ^^ 


sign of pride,* (Conf. 16.18) '^Dejection (depression) can also 
reduce a monk to silence. This dejection does not allow a monk 
to be gentle with his brothers l K ( Inst . 9.1) The monk is warned 
not to give up communication with his brothers, but rather to 
practice patience. (Inst. 9.7) This kind of silence can be an 
escape from community responsibilities and is not desirable. 

That God may bestow on us all the marvelous gift and blessing 
of silence, I would like to end with a few excerpts from the 
prayer of Sr. Elizabeth of the Trinity: 

"0 my God, teach me the secret of the silence which reaches 
unto interior silence. Yes, I will be silent with creatures so 
that I can hear your voice which speaks in silence. Kelp me, 
Lord, to attain this beautiful interior silence which unites all 
my faculties in order to concentrate them on You, making my soul 
attentive to every one of your words, and capable of perceiving 
the slightest inspiration and motion of the Holy Spirit. 'You, 

Lord, wake me in the morning, in the morning you open my ear, 
that I may hear you as a Master' (Is. 5Q:1±) but your word is 
light as a whisper and sounds without noise; a deep and profound 
silence is necessary, therefore, in order to hear it. You who 
calmed the waves of Genesareth, repeat this action in my soul, 

so that a great calm, a great silence may reign. Eternal Word, 

1 long to spend my life listening to you and become wholly teach- 
able, that I may learn all from You." 



1 Fr . Anicetus Fernandez, Introductory Letter to the Nuns, 3cok of 

Constitutions, O.r., Tallaght, 1971, p. 3 

2 Abraham Heschel, "The Religious Message", (in Religious America:, 
New York, 1958, p.2fc3 

3 3r. Senecicta Ward, 3LG, "The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers, 3LG 
Press, 1 9 7 7 j p • 1 

k Romano Guardini, "The Virtues", Henry Regnery Company, Chicago, 
1967, p.lU3 

5 Dietrich Van Hildebrand, "Transformation in Christ", New York, 
Longmans-Green, 19l|3, p. 117 

6 Romano Guardini, "The Virtues" .... p.l'i3 

7 John Paul II, Address to the Flenary Session of SCRSI, March 7, 

8 Romano Guardini, "The Virtues" .... 

9 Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O., "Thoughts in Solitude", New York, Farrar, 
Straus & Cudahy, 1953, p. 82 

1C Romano Guardini, "The Virtues" .... p . Ili9 

11 Archbishop Luis M. Martinez, D.D., "Only Jesus", St. Louis, Herder 
Book Co. , 1962, p.lSO 


Romano Guarcini, "The Virtues" . ...p. 11: 7 

13 Dom Helder Camara, "A Thousand Reasons for Living'', rhiladelphia, 
Fcrtress Press, 1931, p. 85 

Ik F. Allison Peers, "Tne Complete Works of St. John of the Cross" 

(Vol. Ill, "The Living Flame"), Maryland, Newman Press, 19L9, p. 179 

15 Ambrose G. Wathen, O.3.B., "The Word of Silence", (Cistercian Studies, 
Vol. XVII), 1932, p. 209 

16 Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O., "Thoughts in Solitude" ....p. 90 

17 Ibid. p. 95 



■"The Impact of Modern Culture on Monasticism" is a formidable assignment, 
worthy of monastic experts like Fr. Jean LeClercq, or a historian like 
Christopher Dawson, or a mystic like Thomas Merton. Though the subject 
is sweeping and the challenge immense, it is worth trying for as Chester- 
ton said: "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." The 
following observations and reflections will be at best an initial word, 
awaiting better and more searching words from those vastly more informed 
than I... A springboard might well be G audium et Spes , the pastoral consti- 
tution on the Church in the Modern World, for we are, as monasteries, 
cells in the Mystical Body, microcosms in that great macrocosm. Recently 
(Zv/83) Cardinal Bernardin called the Second Vatican Council "not just a 
set of documents and policies. . .but a stream of Spirit-filled vitality in 
the ongoing history of the people of God." What happens to the Church 
happens in due measure to monasteries. If the Church takes a positive 
attitude toward the world, opens wide her doors to it, the monastery too 
must pursue openness and ecumenism, as the Spirit suggests, within the 
parameters of her laws and her particular calling... A healthy monastery 
is not impervious to the surrounding culture but filters it, purifies it, 
uses it, re-inserts it into its global and divine context. It resists its 
noise, its thoughtless speed, its futile agitation but applauds its marvel- 
ous discoveries and its growing psychological insight as part of the cosmic 
contemplative search. The challenge of the last days of the 20th century" 
(17 years till the 21st! ), televised, computerized and nuclearized as it is, 
and armed to the teeth, is to face the tremendous weight of good that it 
brings: scientific and medical breakthroughs — computers, implants, trans- 
plants, solar energy, to name but a few, and to resist its evils: incred- 
ibly excessive armaments, inflation, maldistribution of good3, the rich be- 
coming richer and. the poor poorer through the spread of multinational cor- 
porations. However devastating the demonic forces in the modern world are, 
Christian hope and courage and the vision of Christ redeeming and sanctify- 
ing the world now, in its present plight, should prevail. Christ is crea- 
ting a new universe on the stubble of the old . 

Were I to settle on one individual and her creative response to the communi- 
cations media, I would choose Mother Angelica. With incredible courage she 
has launched the first Catholic TV Network, the Eternal Word. That is sure- 
ly one of thestunning events of the 20th century. She could be considered 
as a model of what the daring contemplative can accomplish. For years now 
she has been sending pamphlets free on request to promote the Faith, -insight- 
ful essays which come from her own pen. They' have a printing press as well 
as a TV studio at Our Lady of the Angels in Birmingham, Alabama, where 
Mother Angelica is prioress. 

Her most illustrious predecessor is, of course, Thomas Merton, writer par 
excellence, ecumenist by the grace and universal appeal with which he wrote, 
exemplar of what the contemplative ideally is and can achieve. In great 
part, he alone by his wisdom and multiple accomplishments, especially his 
astounding literary output, upheld the validity of the contemplative life 
when is was held in serious question. The spirit of prayer irradiated 
through everything he wrote. 

The document on religious renewal, Perfectae Caritatis , sends us back to our 
roots. In the process, the demands of the Gospel confront us with new 
urgency as we see how St. Dominic was a man of the Gospel, radically poor, 
rich in wisdom, alive with the fire of Christ. We long for the zeal he had 
and drop to our knees to pray that that fire may not be extinguished in us. 
As St. Dominic was an innovator, sending his men out of the cloister to 
spread the Word, we pray to spread God's Word by writing, speaking and being 
totally Jesus Christ's. When asked once what he considered the greatest 
discovery, Abraham Lincoln replied without hesitation: "the written word". 


It is a silent medium appropriate for a silent life. One is not a captive 
audience to the written word which can be abandoned at any moment without 
discourtesy . 

Global consciousness is probably one of the major beneficent effects of 
the thrust of the modern world. Not that Christianity or Christians were 
ever devoid of a cosmic consciousness as members of the one cosmic Christ. 
Put global consciousness is heightened b\ such institutions as the UN and 
its famous Dr. Robert Muller, not to speak of all the communications media 
3r. Zita Wenkler summarizes Dr. Muller 1 s philosophy in a May 1983 article 
in " Sisters Today " . "In his view, a new humanity is emerging, a funda- 
mental evolutionary change is taking place. (Dr. Muller is constantly con- 
fronted with world perspectives . ) We are entering into a period of global 
consciousness in viich the spiritual dimension is immensely important. We 
are witnessing the beginning of a new spirituality from which science can- 
not be excluded. He pointed out how governments have failed because they 
have excluded the heart, that if we want a good world we must start with 
the individual. . .We must recognize that we are cosmic beings .. .There is an 
incredible power in what you can do... Launch into something positive. Do 
not go along with the pessimists. Have the courage to say what you think. 
Have the courage of \our convictions. We cannot expect other people to 
understand what we are thinking about .. .We have to express ourselves... 
Muller reminded us (the Association of Contemplative Sisters) that we are 
receptacles of divine or cosmic forces." 

There is a basic universality in the very Constitution of the Dominican 
Crder as preachers sent into the whole world to preach the Gospel, to 
spread the Word of God to ever;.- creature. There has always been a deep 
embrace of truth wherever it is found, be it scientific or philosophical, 
theological or mystic with exemplars in Albert, Thomas, Catherine and 
Eckhart. Ever;; true contemplative has the mind of Christ and sees the 
wisdom and beauty of God at work in all creation. 

Christ is our eternal contemporary, as Kierkegaard so aptl} described Him. 
A contemplative is a woman of her time, not another time! Ten years ago 
I met the then president of my alma mater and she very respectfully took 
the view that I was, as it were, a super-terrestial being, beyond history. 
Kj response was the assertion of my conviction that I was indeed a vital, 
though obscure part of current history, that I had not retreated to a 
Platonic world of ideas. Grace is available now, not at another time. I 
must live in the now to be real, to answer the divine summons. 

Even politics can effect our Dominican government positively. Ten years 
ago one of the young Sisters about to make solemn profession petitioned 
.i:ome for permission to vote for the prioress after solemn profession. 
The answer was no. She was upset and later left. My thought at the time 
was: be patient. God's time for it -will come. It cane. Even the Oraer 
sees that those in the -world can vote at an early age and that we must 
mirror in our Constitutions that aspect of justice, especially since the 
younger Sisters are usually very hard working ana contribute more, 
because of their physical and mental strength, to the good of the whole 
community . 

The knowledge explosion, its deluge of information, is a marvelous r heno- 
menon but it must be used with discernment, selectivity, concentration, 
discipline or it will tear people apart and render them scattered and 
superficial instead of ordered, centered, living at a depth, intent on 
their goal, the vision of God. 


The findings of psychology have had an immense impact over the world in 
general and profound repercussions among religious in {articular, which 
have for the most part, been creative and helpful in the pursuit of 
prayer and spiritual development. There is a very close parallel 
between human and spiritual growth. 

There is increased communication and collaboration among us, sharing of 
ideas in crucial areas such as formation and government. .Sharing ideas 
about attracting recruits was done by Basil Pennington describing his 
Cottage Plan at Spencer Abbey and their almost geometrical increase in 
recruits in the May, 1980 Review for Religious. That plan re-populated 
St. Joseph's Abbey to overflowing, necessitating the building of a new 
wing plus plans for a new foundation. Creative ways of drawing potential 
candidates through teaching them prayer, with no strings attached, can 
he devised. We need competent and eloquent writers and teachers of 
prayer who can function effectively in their own monasteries, using the 
facilities provided there. 

Here in New York we have the Metropolitan Association of Contemplatives 
with much sharing, including a Canon Law Workshop in 1977. In the late 
1960's a small Canon Law Workshop was conducted at the Precious Blood 
Monastery by Fr. Paul Boyle, CP. He underscored privacy as a basic 
right of human beings. Mail should not be censored, either coming in 
or going out. An enormous burden of responsibility is thus lifted from 
the prioress 1 shoulders, already heavily laden. 

Feminism is having a profound and pervasive effect upon language and thus 
upon the ways we think about the world. Women's heightened awareness of 
their own potential and consequent responsibility to contribute to the 
betterment of the world through cultivation of their own minds and in- 
volvement in the works of peace and justice is part of the positive 
aspect of the movement which certainly has its aberrations as well as 
its creative insights. Feminism has had a profound effect upon religious, 
Many have adopted secular dress. Some have added cosmetics and jewelry. 
However one cannot overlook concern for the poor. Some have sold large 
and lovely motherhouses to live simpler lives among the disadvantaged. 
Others have deviated from sound morality by sanctioning abortion in 
hospitals they run and in the pursuit of social work abet planned parent- 
hood. Hopefully the progress of science will eventually dissuade them 
from this disastrous course by proving the harmful effects of abortion 
physically, psychologically and socially. A spirit which begins with a 
challenge can end in defiance and alienation from the basic morality of 
the Church. Feminism will have reached its maturity when it sheds its 
anger, regains its sense of humor, forgives the inequities and iniquities 
of the past, re-rooting itself in Jesus Christ, Who alone generates the 
spirit of forgiveness. Christian women must penetrate the ranks of fem- 
inists and bring the Gospel message to them. Those women sincerely in- 
terested in ordination should grow in peaceand not resentment at the de- 
finitive no to ordination by Pope John Paul II. The highest realms of 
sanctity are open to us, not necessarily every ecclesial office. 

There are many facets of the modern world and the advances of Technology 
which are an untold benefit. The joy of listening to Scripture during a 
wakeful siesta in the dormitory on a tape with earphones is one example. 
One can tire of reading, experience eyestrain and make one's lectio 
divina on tape since faith comes by hearing. Timers are a boon toward 
concentration while cooking or any desire for a prayerful pursuit of 
something practical, without interruption. Fire alarms, freezers to save 
food, telephones to make an emergency call, all add to the richness and 
security of life. Recording the reminiscences of our older Sisters can 


add a rich dimension to monastic history, now designated oral history. 

The more I search in order to acknowledge how ver\ much the modern world has 
brought to each one of us, the more I am moved to underscore the primacy of 
prayer as our major and crucial contribution to healing its ills. "The Father 
is eternally generating the Son in the depths of our being." This transcend- 
ent fact, the Divine Indwelling, which totally transcends our imagination or 
intellect, if known and lived in Faith, contributes enormously to the good of 
the whole world. One perfect soul is an army. "The love of Christ overwhelms 
us." Unless our lives are stripped of needless complications, it is hard to 
be intent on the living God. Simplicity, poverty, silence are a divine milieu. 
A clarion call to growth in love and prayer surely is the message of devotion 
to the Sacred Heart. We settle for too little. God would give us much more 
if we but listened and heeded. God Who is great does great things. 

A taped lecture by Thomas Merton to the Franciscans of the Allegheny Retiro 
is worth quoting as a kind of Magna Charta for Contemplatives . "...the con- 
templative life cannot normally reach its maturity in individual cases, unless 
the Christian called to contemplation, besides receiving the charismatic call 
to contemplative prayer, is able to enter into the direct stream of that con- 
templative knowledge and love which has ceaselessly flowed through the Church 
from generation to generation. Normally the contemplative life requires some 
kind of training and initiation into the deeper realities of Christian exper- 
ience. Though we must sorrowfully admit that we have been unworthy of the 
knowledge and experience handed down to us from the earliest Christian monks, 
and through them from the Apostles, yet we as members of the monastic orders 
of the western church, are bound before God and man to testify that this 
living tradition and experience are still alive and accessible in our monast- 
eries... the authentic treasure of living experience has indeed been handed on 
to us but we have perhaps really buried it instead of putting it to good use. 
We pledge ourselves, therefore, to do our best to recover it, to bring it once 
again to light — and to seek a way of renewal which — far from leading to an 
activistic distortion of our vocation, will restore its original purity. 

"Cur great duty to the Church as contemplatives is to preserve intact a heritage 
of charismatic and direct dependence on God in prayer, from which may flow an 
experience of the deepest realities of Christian revelation. In order to do 
*his, it is absolutely necessary for us to maintain the purity of monastic 
common life in which the freedom of fraternal love in Christ, the discipline of 
monastic formation and total obedience of one and all to the Hol\ Spirit — keep 
alive an atmosphere of prayer in which the authentic purity of Christian con- 
templation can be handed on from spiritual father to spiritual sons. We recog- 
nize especially the importance of silence, solitude, poverty, labor, humility, 
chastity, fasting and ail the traditional forms of monastic ascesis, not in 
order to justify ourselves by our routine of dead works but to keep ourselves 
attentive to the living God. We recognize that as contemplatives grow in their 
experience of intimacy with God they will need special support to develop their 
unique gifts in their own ways — some of them perhaps living in eremitical soli- 
tude. In a word we not only bear witness to the living actuality of the monast- 
ic experience that has been handed down to us from the earliest days of Egypt 
and Syrian mona3ticism, but we solemnly pledge ourselves to preserve that heri- 
tage ana to develop it in ways that are relevant to our time. As the present 
age demands of all a certain definite openness to the world, we will study ways 
in which we can, within the limits of our specific task and vocation, share 
with others the benefits of solitude and prayer and enter into dialogue with 
those who are experienced in other contemplative traditions." 


As I near the end of this essay on the impact of the modern world upon 
monasticism, the Lord provides a marvelous example. One of the Sisters 
asked Reverend Mother if we could send s tape of the Salve, and other 
songs the Cardinal likes, to comfort him in his illness. Mother agreed 
and realizing there was little time left, we taped an hour's singing 
in choir on Sunday October 2nd, and sent it directly with Sr. Ann to the 
Cardinal's residence. On October 5th, the New York Times had a report 
from Fr. Peter Finn that the Cardinal, in his last hours, was listening 
to a tape sent from Corpus Christi Monastery. Thereupon Channel 9 came 
at 9:30, broadcasting at noon. Channel 11 came at 1, broadcasting at 
7:30 and Channel 7 came at 7 in preparation for their 11 PM news. 
Assembled in choir we sang, then answered questions in parlor and hoped 
that someone would be moved, drawn to God or drawn to Corpus Christi 
monastery. It was a unique experience foreshadowed somewhat by a radio 
interview I had with 2 active Sisters on the religious life since 
Vatican II . Respecting our cloister, WOR said it was unnecessary for me 
to come to the studio, that I could use the phone, which proved to be 
ideal that blazing hot day, July 14th, 1983 • It never dawned on me 
that I would ever be invited to participate in a discussion on radio. 
It was a risk but things went well due to a courteous and dynamic inter- 
viewer, a real professional, Patricia McCann, who asked good questions 
which kept the hour integrated. 

So the Lord seems to be saying: Behold I do new things. Be renewed in 
the spirit of your mind to catch my ideas and carry out my plans. The 
v/ord plan makes me realize I do little long term planning and that I 
should be more of an architect of my own life. Yes, our times are in 
His Hands. He is directing history but He expects us to plan too, though 
some of our plans will not materialize. They laughed at the Russians 
when they devised their first 5-year plan. Now most companies plan at 
least 10 years ahead. Fr. Val LaFrance left after our June retreat to 
plan 1986 with his secretary. Would God be displeased if we as monast- 
eries dreamed about the future together a little more often? Leapt onto 
a magic carpet to new worlds of Gospel accomplishment? It's more than 
likely that similar thoughts are entertained by many of us. A Dominican 
Sister on a Dominican retreat brought back a folder which proclaimed: 
"You are sent to proclaim the Gospel by your very being." "Risk going 
out on a limb. That's where the fruit is." 

Lord Jesus, send Your Holy Spirit with new vision for our monastic lives. 
Lead us to new ventures under that same Spirit of Truth. Renew our hope, 
our courage, our stamina under stress. Impart to us the great grace of 
re-centering our lives on You through sustained prayer and persevering 
effort to catch and follow Your inspirations. Never let us forget that 
to be the effective instrument You desire us to be, we must be totally 
transformed in You. Give us that sovereign grace and never let us cease 
to ask for it. 

History repeats itself. After the clothing ceremony for Sr. Therese 
Remy October 7th, feast of the Rosary, we had to delay Vespers to sing 
h songs that the CBS crew wanted us to sing for them in preparation for 
the Cardinal's funeral. Four TV crews in 2 days! What is the Lord 
saying? There was a note of humor and strong symbolism too for our new 
Sister Therese of Jesus, a transfer Sister from Notre Dame de Namur, 
has her doctorate in Educational Technology, which means that TV is one 
of her specialties. The Lord speaks! 

Is it laboring the obvious to mention that the modern world has brought 
us new critical editions and translations of the great spiritual classics 


which are stirring deep longings for growth in prayer among us all? 
Microfilming has been a bocn for the quick acquisition of great libraries 

Sr. Donald Corcoran, OSB, mentioned, quoting Fr. Jean LeClercq, that the 
average life span in the monaster-} in the middle ages was 9 years! The 
black death and tuberculosis have decimated many a community. But the 
problem of our times is not having numerous religious cut off in the 
flower of their youth but adequately preparing for a fruitful, graceful 
and serene old age. Gerontology Workshops are in order. 

This has beer, an overwhelming assignment , accepted in a spirit of faith 
that with God nothing is impossible and in the conviction that life 
itself involves swimming in waters far be;;, ono our depth. This does not 
ana cannot pretend to be a scholarly essay, a research article drawn 
from much study but hopefully the fruit of reflection, experience and 
observation of one reasonably in touch with the modern world. 

To reiterate: I can think of no living, individual who has come to grips 
with the challenge of the modern world more than Mother Angelica of 
Birmingham whose picture is in the National Geographic anc on the front 
rage of the National Catholic Reporter for October 7th. Knowing the 
hypnotic power of TV over children, who spend more time before the TV set 
than they do in the classroom, she decided to take the bull bj the horns 
and established her own TV network. In U years she accomplished what 
the Bishops have been trying to do for 15! Beyond the brute facts lie 
courage, faith, wit, determination, willingness to risk failure. Kow 
fitting that the patroness of TV, St. Clare, should have such a daughter! 
Years ago, after a severe back injury, she promised Our Lord she would 
build Him a monastery in the South and she did. Architects and builders 
argued with her against her choice of a location. She was not to be 
cissuaded and when the TV network was launched in her backyard, the crew 
said it was the only spot in Birmingham suitable for the network! Yes, 
Mother Angelica has been led by the Spirit but perhaps the pain she still 
suffers from her back injury has made her more attentive to His voice. 
She has a great sense of humor, unlimited generosity in giving away 
parrphlets written bj herself, which travel to ever} corner of the world, 
sparking some wonderful conversions. What a powerhouse of prayer Our 
Lady of the Angels monastery must be, with perpetual adoration pursued 
b\ 12 nuns and a printing press and a TV studio manned for the most part 
by 2 laj, staffs, many of whom are volunteers. Mother Angelica is a high 
school graduate, proving that a Ph.D. in Communications is not a prere- 
quisite for a stunning accomplishment: the Eternal Word Network. Recent- 
ly Steuhenville University conferred on her an honorary Doctorate in 

In his lifetime and since his death, Thomas Merton has continued to exert 
a powerful and penetrating influence on the modern world whose language 
he sroke, whose heart he touched, into whose darkness he cast Christ's 
light with incomparable grace and compassion, having experienced the 
thraldom of sin and the confusion of the secular world. His enormous 
literary output is a testimonial to grace and the power of a unique 
genius which blossomed in the austerity of Oethsemane in an atmosphere of 
profound silence and prayer. One of the paradoxes of his life is the 
incredible outpouring of wise words written in filence, like a river not 
to be stopped. (He once remarked that if the abbot had told him to stop 
■vritinj?, he would have gone mad.) His words have wings because they are 
touched by the spirit, full of the wisdom deriving only from prayer. 
Everything he wrote breathed of a transcendent world but it was couched 
in a language intelligible to all. Thomas Merton 1 s life and work were 
and are a miracle, as Thomas Aquinas was and is, of the grace of trans- 


forming union, the fruit of an intelligent agent deeply in the divine 
possession, whose spiritual productivity is staggering. 

In very different hut complementary ways Mother Angelica and Thomas 
Merton speak to us of the power of faith and love and wisdom to magnetize 
others and draw them to the Divine Magnet, Jesus Christ. Thomas Merton 
was a highly sophisticated, cultivated genius. Mother Angelica has a 
homespun wit and humor, candour and brightness that lend themselves to 
her medium, the TV screen. "You have to do the ridiculous for God to do 
the miraculous" she says. 

Cloisters should be creative laboratories of prayer and thought where 
God's thoughts are caught, expressed and implemented in an atmosphere of 
silence and love. The world is devastated by incessant noise and it 
yearns for stillness and peace. We must contribute to the wisdom 
literature of our day by articulating our experience of God and showing 
by our life and conversation that Christ is fully alive. 

In an endeavor to take a positive outlook on our times, I may not have 
sufficiently underscored its evils, the misuse of technology and the 
pursuit of the killing of the unborn on an unprecedented scale, the 
profit motive dominating pharmaceutical companies in their promotion 
of contraceptives and medicines which have not been sufficiently tested, 
even the abuse of animals in research, the exploitation of the land with 
chemical fertilizers and deadly sprays causing cancer. TV, which can be 
a marvelous teaching medium can also, in its very reporting of crimes, 
incite the unstable and unscrupulous to further crime. The terrible 
slavery of sexual exploitation of youth has prompted Fr. Bruce Hitter's 
great work at Covenant House, which is spreading to other cities. His 
staff perseveres because everyone prays at least 3 hours a day. Where 
sin abounds, grace yet more abounds, St. Paul said. The whole world is 
in His Hands but God Who respects our freedom, will not destroy our free 
will, our capacity to perpetrate immense evil as well as to be the in- 
strument of untold good. Hope sees be\ond overwhelming evil to the 
Omnipotent God Who waits patiently for the harvest and will not uproot 
the weeds lest He uproot the good grain. He writes straight with 
crooked lines and makes the impossible possible. 

Gaudium et Spes said: "May the faithful therefore live in very close union 
with the men of their time." "Let them strive to understand perfectly 
their waj of thinking and feeling as expressed in their culture." 
The modern world affects the monastic world and it in turn must under- 
stand and compassionate its suffering of many grievous ills: war, 
famine, starvation so that monastic prayer may be vibrant in its reali- 
zation of Christ's suffering in His living members now. Intercessions 
at the Office and Mass help to keep us aware and in touch with the 
world's needs and crises and with one another. It is also a psycho- 
logical outlet for the expressions of one's anxieties and aspirations. 

"Be still and know that I am God" is what the modern world yearns to 
hear. It is fascinated by monasteries where silence reigns. May its 
need and our need for God drive us to deeper dimensions of radical 
openness to God, listening intently to Him and to all reality that our 
lives ma; become more authentically monastic, alone with the Alone, 
realizing that He is our burning Center. "The Lord will give you the 
bread you need and the water for which ;you thirst. No longer will 
your Teacher hide Himself but with your own eyes you shall see your 
Teacher, while from behind a shall sound in your ears: 'This is 
the way; walk in it." Isaiah 30:20 


tie all have ideas but they grow with implementation. Unconventional ioeas 
have frequently been a rrophecj of the future. Thomas Edison searched the 
world over to gather the right, the precise material for the electric 
light. He said: "The incandescent light was the hardest one of all; it 
took mam years, not only of concentrated thought, but also of world-wiae 
research." Rckhart said: "In all things be a God seeker. At all times 
be a Cod finder." The modern world is filled with sin, confusion, wars 
and rumors of wars. It is also filled with saints and inspiration and 
poetry and all kinds of creative accomplishment. God is deeply at work 
in it at ever, moment. "Great souled persons are desperately requirec 
by our times" wrote Vatican II in G audi urn **t Spes. "With the needed 
help of divine grace, men (and women) who are truly new ana artisan3 of 
a new humanity can be forthcoming." May they come forth radiating Christ, 
totally transformed in Him, transparent 'with His goodness. 

Sr, Frances Clare, OP 
Corpus Christi Monastery 
123C Lafayette Avenue 
Bronx, New York 10i»7A 


<T?& vuqkt is fur spent thedayBrMte \\ia(v 


Sainte Baume and Devotion to St. Mary Magdalen in the Dominican Order 

Devotion to St. Mary Magdalen certainly antedates the Dominican Order but her cult 
was particularly popular in France at the time when our order was founded. Perhaps like 
so many other things the cult of this saint was a relic of the crusades. The Greek Church 
had a tradition that Lazarus had been cast adrift in a leaky boat by the Jews and that 
the boat had miraculously sailed to Cypress where the saint became the first bishop. 
Another tradition told that Mary Magdalen had accompanied the Blessed Virgin and St. John 
to Ephesus. The supposed tombs of both saints were discovered in the 800's and their 
relics transfered to Constantinople by order of Emperor Leo VI. At a somewhat later date 
the West had a story similar to the Greek Lazarus legend in which Lazarus, Martha, Mary 
Magdalen and other Palestinian saints were set adrift in a boat which sailed to Provence. 

The cult of St. Mary Magdalen played an important part in the reform of the Abbey 
of Vezelay by the Abbot Geoffrey. Her relics, said to have come from Provence, were 
displayed at the Abbey, and after Geoffrey's successor Boniface got a bull from Pope 
Stephen in 1058 authenticating the relics and after Boniface had placed Vezelay under 
Cluny, the Abbey became an important pilgrimage site, both in its own right and also as 
a stopping place for pilgrims on the road to St. James of Compostella. Devotion to 
Magdalen led to devotion to the other Palestinian saints. At the Cathedral of Autun, for 
exampl ^dedicated in 1130 by Pope Innocent II the central apse was dedicated to Lazarus, 
the northern to Magdalen, and the southern apse to Martha. The supposed relics of 
Lazarus were translated to a new tomb in the cathedral about 1170. The Abbey of St. 
Victor claimed to be the site of St. Lazarus' martyrdom, while Marseilles claimed him as 
her first bishop. So the cult of the Palestinian saints was strong in Provence where 
the Dominican Order was born. But how did St. Mary Magdalen become linked specifically 
with the Dominican Order? 

Legend tells of St. Mary Magdalen's appearances to St. Dominic; yet, how old are these 
traditions? Blessed James of Voragine O.P. author of the Golden Legend , is known for 
his love of the miraculous but although he recounts the stories of St. Mary Magdalen and 
St. Catherine of Alexandria in fanciful terms and the story of St. Dominic in surprisingly 
factual terms, he does not recount any appearance of either saint to St. Dominic nor 
does he mention either Magdalen or Catherine as linked to the Dominican Order in any way. 
Humbert of Romans in his Treatise on the Formation of Preachers considers St. Mary 
Magdalen as important enough as to give special instructions on how to preach on her 
feast but again he makes no mention of her as important to the Order. Rather he holds 
her up to the audience as an example of repentance. Of course there is the account of 
the Signadou which first appeared to St. Dominic on the feast of St. Mary Magdalen; but 
the first written reference to it is in 1423 which is quite late, and some historians 
thus question its authenticity. So the question may be asked; did the Signadou give 
birth to the cult or did the cult give birth to the account of the Signadou? 

The turning point when St. Mary Magdalen became of particular importance to the 
Dominicans would appear to be in 1279 when Charles, Prince of Sal erno, (afterwards King 
Charles II of Sicily) established a shrine to St. Mary Magdalen at Sainte Baume and 
gave it into the keeping of the Friars Preachers. The story goes that Charles, having 
been taken a prisoner of war by the King of Aragon, was advised by his Dominican 
confessor to have recourse to St. Mary Magdalen, the patron saint of Provence (italics 
mine.) The saint then appeared to the^prince and helped him to escape, commanding him 
to restore her shrine at Sainte Baume. Whatever the truth of the legend may be, 
Charles was certainly present on December 1279 when relics believed to be those of the 
saint were exhumed in the cavern where legend said Mary Magdalen had spent her last 
years in contemplation. As grandson of Queen Blanche and nephew of King St. Louis IX, 

1. Sister Mary Jean Dorcy 0,P. St. Dominic (St. Louis, Mo. B. Herder Book Co. 1959) 

p. 165 ~ 

2. A Sister of the Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena (Stone) Short Lives of the 
Dominican Saints (Manuscript c. 1900) 


it was only natural that Charles should turn to the Dominicans when he decided to set up 
the snrine at Sainte Baume, for the royal family of France were most generous patrons 
of the Dominican Order. Sainte Baume quickly became a popular pilgrimage; eclipsing 
Vezelay entirely. 

The Saint Mary Magdalen preached by the Dominicans and identified with their 
shrine was the traditonal view going back to Pope St. Gregory the Great, who considered 
that Mary Magdalen, Mary of Bethany, and the woman who was a sinner were all the same 
woman. Surprisingly for a preaching order, there was little mention of Mary Magdalen 
as the witness to the Resurrection and "the apostle to the apostles". Instead, continuing 
to follow Humbert de Romans' teaching Mary Magdalen was held up by the Dominicans as an 
example of the repentent sinner. So it is no surprise to find Mary Magdalen appearing 
in the sermons of St. Vincent Ferrer, the "Angel of the Judgement", whose recurring theme 
was "Penance, Penance." With Vincent travelled his Confraternity of Flagellants. One 
young friar who was for a time a Flagellant was Blessed Andre Abellon. Friar Andre had 
been born in Provence, near the shrine of Sainte Baume. He turned his considerable 
talents, both managerial and artistic, towards the promotion of the shrine. 

The devotion to St. Mary Magdalen received new impetus, too, from St. Catherine of 
Siena. Raymond of Capua in his life of the saint recorded one of Catherine's mystical 
graces as that of being given by Christ Mary Magdalen to be her mother and patron. 
Interestingly enough, Catherine and Raymond had different interpretations of the vision. 
The only interpretation Catherine would admit, says Raymond, 

"...that she who was still a sinner was given as a daughter to her who had 

been converted from her sin, and that now she would have for mother one 
whom the liturgy calls Pi a mater et humilis, memor naturae fragilis, 
a mother who knew both how frail her woman's nature was and how unbounded 
was the mercy the Son of God could show it... 

Raymond, however, who certainly knew of Sainte Baume and perhaps had made the pilgrimage 
himself as some things in his writings seem to indicate, saw the correspondence between 
Catherine of Siena and Mary Magdalen in the terms given at Sainte Baume and in the 
Golden Legend . Mary Magdalen at Sainte Baume had led the life of a solitary, completely 
wrapped in contemplation and subsisting only on the Eucharist. Raymond sees these things 
repeated in the life of Catherine. 

Hagiography, which is a subdivison of spirituality, shows Mary Magdalen's role in 
the life of certain Dominican saints. Blessed Benvenuta of Bojan on Easter Morning 
received a visit from the Blessed Virgin accompanied by the Three Marys. Blessed Osanna 
of Mantua saw Blessed Columba of Riete, Mary Magdalen, and St. Catherine of Siena, 
joining her (Osanna) in prayer for Mantua. Blessed Catherine of Racognigio claims 
St. Mary Magdalen as one of the witnesses for her mystic espousals to Jesus Christ. 
By far the most important of these visionaries was St. Catherine de Ricci who claimed 
frequent visits from St. Mary Magdalen including one Easter Morning when the saint 
conducted Catherine into the presence of the Risen Christ. 

Moving into the sphere of spirituality proper and also into the sixteenth century, 
we find Venerable Louis of Granada treating of Mary Magdalen in his Summa of the Christian 
Li fe as a penitent and a recluse at Sainte Baume. Louis Chardon writing in 1647 his 
book 'he Cross of Jesus does not mention Sainte Baume but he does identify Mary Magdalen 
as the sinful woman. Chardon gives a new twist to the Martha/ Mary story by suggesting 
that both sisters represent the contemplative life. Mary at Jesus' feet is tasting the 
joys of the beginner's stage while busy Martha is in the more advanced stage of aridity. 

3. Raymond of Capua Life of St. Catherine of Siena (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael 
Glazier Inc. 1980) p. 179 


Like so many other sacred places, the Church at Sainte Baume was wrecked during 
the French Revolution. In 1822 the grotto was consecrated anew and after the Restoration 
of the French Province of the Dominican Order, the grotto was again entrusted to the 
care of the Friars Preachers. Lacordaire, whose own corporeal penances were well 
known, was attracted to the saint. His book Sainte Marie Madeline played a momentous 
part in the conversion of the actress Eve LaValliere. 

At about this time a certain Dominican novice, named Alcide La Taste, after 
venerating a relic of St.. Mary Magdalen was struck by the thought: 

"So it is true, the greatest sinners have it in them to become the , 
greatest saints; they may very well become such one day." 

Not many years later, having become Father Mary John Joseph La Taste, the former novice 
was to begin his famous "Bethany House". One house of this order is located near 
Sainte Baume to this day. 

Across the ocean devotion to St. Mary Magdalen continued to be found in the Dominican 
order and continued to be connected with the grotto which for the most part neither 
preacher nor audience had ever seen. Clement M. Thuente O.P. described by his 
American brothers as 

"one of the outstanding members of the province and priests of the country. 5 
The lives of few priests have been so active and fruitful." 

published in 1921 a Novena in honor of Mary Magdalen and he did not hesitate to give 
the story of the grotto in the ninth meditation even to skeptical Americans. 

Moving into the twentieth century we find St. Mary Magdalen the subject of the 
writings of such Dominicans as Vincent McNabb O.P., A.D. Sertillanges O.P., and 
Raymond- Leopold Brukberger O.P. Even the biblical criticism of our own Pere Lagrange, 
who questions the tradi tonal identification of Mary Magdalen, Mary of Bethany, and 
the sinful woman as all one person, did not affect the writings of the three above 
mentioned writers who kept to the tradi tonal view. McNabb" s book is perhaps the most 
touching as writing in the midst of World War II, he holds up St. Mary Magdalen as the 
model of repentance and repentance as the one hope for a Europe under Nazis and the 
as yet unconquered Great Britain. 

Bible Exegetes, like Pere Lagrange, and the revised liturgy itself are turning 
from the identification of Mary Magdalen with the sinful woman. Penance is almost a 
forgotten word today and even when remembered could scarcely be less popular. Where 
does that leave the Dominican Order 1 s traditional devotion to St. Mary Magdalen? It may 
be the devotion will take on new aspects; we may see more emphasis on Mary Magdalen 
as the first witness of the Risen Lord and as the "Apostle to the Apostles". But 1980 
was a momentous year at the grotto of Sainte Baume for it marked the 700th anniversary 
of the rediscovery of the saint's tomb (1280--1980). Thousands of pilgrims mingled 
with religious, six bishops, the Master General of the Dominicans, and the Apostolic 
Nuncio to honor St. Mary Magdalen. The presence of the Master General must surely 
bear witness that Sainte Baume will always be a part of our Dominican heritage. 

4. Dominican Sisters of Bethany "Introduction to the Life of Father La'Taste" p. 2 

5. Rev. James Reginald Coffey O.P. Pictorial History of the Dominican Province of 

St. Joseph U.S. A (National Headquarters for the Society of the Holy Name New York 1946) 

Sister Mary John O.P 



In our first Gospel-meeting with Mary, she is betrothed to Joseph. She has con- 
sented to be a homemaker for him. Then the angel Gabriel comes to her, sent by 
God with a momentous request. Would she be willing to become a home for the Eter- 
nal Word of God? to become His mother by the Holy Spirit coming upon her and the 
Power of Most High overshadowing her? Mary replies in the affirmative, as we would 
expect the holiest of creatures to do. She belongs to God. Let Him do with her 
as He pleases. His will is her will. 

In our last Gospel-meeting with Mary, she is standing at the foot of the Cross on 
which her divine Son Jesus, the Word of God made man, is giving His life for the 
salvation of all mankind. As Jesus offers His Passion of blood to His eternal 
Father, Mary offers her compassion of love. From the Cross Jesus gives her into 
the care of John who, alone of His priests, has followed Him to Calvary. And He 
gives faithful John into her care. Mary is to be a mother to John, and John a son 
to Mary. It is not without significance that Jesus confides His Mother to the 
care of one of the priests whom He ordained the previous evening. Nor is it with- 
out significance that Mary's consent to this arrangement is not asked. 

The few Gospel-meetings we have with Mary in the intervening years reveal her to 
us as a caring, helpful person, a reponsible person, a strong person, a person 
with whom one feels at home. This most gifted woman God ever made or ever will 
make is always a homemaker. She bent her efforts to make a happy home for her fa- 
mily. However poor the dwelling in Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth or Capernaum, it 
must have become beautiful through the presence and industry of this loveliest of 
women, who was growing daily more lovely through her perfect correspondence with 

During the years of His active ministry, when Jesus was seldom at His Mother's 
side, He was nevertheless, in her heart, that immaculate heart which was ever a 
loving home for God and for all those God sent her way. Surely she looked after 
her Son's clothing until He died. The skillfully-woven tunic which Jesus was 
wearing when He walked to Calvary, for which even the rough Roman soldiers had 
some appreciation, was in all likelihood a product of His Mother's art. 

After the Gospel-meetings with Mary, we are given one in the Acts of the Apostles. 
With the Apostles, the little group of women who were utterly devoted to Jesus, and 
His cousins, Mary awaits the coming of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus. The 
Holy Spirit is being sent to the apostolic band to prepare it for the great work 
of evangelization. 

What does this new mission of the Holy Spirit to the Mother of Jesus mean for her? 
Is it at this time that she is given to realize the full intent of Jesus in giving 
John to her and her to John? She has been given as mother to all who will believe 
in Jesus and will follow Him. She is to make a home for them in her heart. 
Through this new mission from the Holy Spirit, Mary is prepared for another dimen- 
sion of her vocation, her sublime, womanly vocation, as hcmemaker. Through prayer, 
not only will she accompany each of the Apostles and other missionaries of her 
Son, but this Queen of Apostles, this Mother of the Church and Mediatrix of All 
Grace will help those to whom the word of God will be preached, so that they will 
give their Redeemer a home in their hearts. 

Thank you, Jesus, for calling us Dominican contemplative Nuns to share in the mi- 
nistries of your, and oury Immaculate Mother. Holy Mary, Mother of the Incarnate 
Word, Mother of the Dominican Family, pray for us. 

Sister Mary Amata, O.P. 
Buffalo, New York 


An Introduction To The Study Of Icons 

This is the substance of a talk given to the Community by the two 
of ua, and, as the title declares, it is merely an introduction to this 
fascinating subject. Those of you who are advanced in icon-lore would do 
well to skip this presentation and move on to the next contribution. 

We felt very ignorant when we were first asked to prepare this 
talk, but as we began our research we discovered we were far more ignorant 
than we thought! We also came to realize what a truly astounding thing an 
icon isi Beautiful and rich as are our artistic traditions and culture 
in the Western Church, one has to admit as a fact, that we have nothing so 
grand, so magnificent as this art form. We, of the West, owe a deep debt 
of gratitude to our brothers of the Eastern rites for what they have given 
to, and preserved for, the world of religion and art. The power and holiness 
of an icon has been a revelation to us and we feel a sense of inadequacy 
and helplessness in the task of trying to convey in the space of an article 
something of the depths we ourselves discovered in preparing our talk. 

We will try, first of all, to explain in an inadequate way what 
an icon is, and what it means in the prayer life of the people. Then we 
will say a bit about icon painters and how they looked at their work. This 
will lead on to a section on how an icon is made. 

What Is an icon, and what does it mean in the prayer life of the 
people ? 

The word 'icon' is Greek and means 'image'. Here, straight away 
we find a new depth. The very word is significant. We are accustomed to 
refer to our Western works of art as 'paintings', a word which puts lifl in a 
frame of reference to material things: form, light, shadow, color, per - 
spective, etc. These things are quite irrelevant in an icon. It is an 
image - an image of what? God, His Mother, His friends. We are lifted to 
the divine plane at once. St. Paul says: " Christ is the icon of the invis- 
ible God". Col. 1. 15 in the Byzantine translation. St. Thomas takes us a 
step further when he says: " An image conveys three simultaneous qual- 
ities:- it is like the prototype or original: it derives from the origin- 
al: and it is similar in species". When we speak of an icon, then, we 
are talking about a sacred representation. When we call it a representa- 
tion, we do not mean a photographic likeness. That would not be enough. The 
icon is the underlying idea, a manifestation of the hidden, a symbol. We 
see one thing and understand another - almost a sacrament, an external 
sign of a divine reality. Christ is the image or icon of the Father, not 
because He is a photographic resemblance of the Father, but because, in His 
Person He manifests the Father to mankind. He is THE manifestation of the 
hidden, the divinity. He shows us the Father in every particular - except 
that He is Son, not Father. The icon is something like 


this, in that it stands for far more than simply a representation, more 
than a picture. The icon is a grace and a life, a life that penetrates, 
purifies and elevates. It has a latent power within it to evoke faith 
and prayer. It is saturated, as it were, with the prayer of the Church. 
It is the life of the Church in a new dimension, flowing out to the one 
who prays. And that is another point. You don't just look at an icon, 
you pray and enter into the reality it stands for. 

An icon, then, is no'' a representation according to our human 
notions. It does not appeal to our senses. That is not its function. 
It may even repel us at first, seeming cold, rigid and stark. But here 
we have to transcend our senses, and look beyond. This is an expression 
of revelation, a testimony, a witness. Saving truth is not communicated 
by word alone, hut by awakening the vital forces in our deepest being 
through the presentation of truth in a visible form. "An icon is an open- 
ing in the invisible". 

Because God loved us He turned to us a visible face, a human 
face in which is discerned the fullness of His being. The icon bears 
within it the reality and the beauty of this love. The seventh ecumen- 
ical Council, held at Nicea in the year 787, and presided over by Pope 
Adrian I, put the icon on the same level as the Holy Scriptures, seeing 
in it another expression of Revelation and on a par with it. 

All this goes to explain why, traditionally, in the Eastern 
Churches, the icon is not something hung on the wall to look at or not as' 
you feel inclined, it is an image to be venerated . Lights burn before it 
as before something holy. People go down on their knees before it, pros- 
trate before it. A power of holiness emanates from it, to be reflected in 
the hearts of the worshipers. Metropolitan Seraphim explains the role of 
the icon in prayer in this wayi- If you stand before the Redeemer's icon 
or that of the Mother of God, stand as if you were before the Lord Jesus 
Christ Himself or before the most Blessed Virgin Mary. Keep your mind 
without any representation, for there is a great difference between stand- 
ing before the Lord in His very presence and representing Him to the imag- 
ination". We can plean from this description the difference between standing 
before an icon and before a beautiful relirious picture, even an Old Mas- 
ter. The best this can do for us is to convey impressions that appeal to 
our imagination or skim the surface of our consciousness. To stand before 
an icon is to enter into the prayer of generations of worshipers, to be where 
Creator and creature meet. There is as much difference between a good religious 
painting and an icon as there is between the eloquence of a good, earnest 
preacher and the words of Scripture. 

The traditional, centuries-old way to pray before an icon is to 
extend the arms and I ands, with palms up, in si^n of humble supplication 
and peaceful resignation. 

Icon Painters and their Work 

The question naturally sugnests itself. How did these holy and 
powerful objects cone into being? 

According to tradition , the first icon painter was St. Luke. 
The painting of the Virgin in the basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome is 
said to be a copy of an original painted by the evangelist. The paintings 


in the catacombs, the cradle of Christian art, have several characteristics 
which were later to develop, on Byzantine soil, into the formation of the 
icon. These features were:- the frontal representation, i.e. faces always 
towards the beholder, simplicity of expression and gesture and the lack of 
shadows. So, by this somewhat tenuous thread, we can trace that pictorial 
language we call the icon back to the earliest Christian art. 

Byzantine, and later Russian, icons emanated from the monaster- 
ies. The painters were monks who dedicated their entire monastic lives to 
the sacred work of icon-painting. There seems to be very little information 
about these artists, which is surprising to us of the West. When we are 
struck by a good religious work of art, the first thing we want to know is 
- whose work is this? What school of painting does he belong to? But with 
an icon it is different. The personality of the artist seems to melt away 
in the spirituality of the work achieved. They were humble, self-effacing 
monks, these icon painters, filled with a desire for God's glory. They 
were contemplatives who prayed and fasted before taking up their brushes and 
while they worked, men whose spiritual lives grew and matured with the devel- 
opment of their art. They lived what they painted and the fruitfulness of 
their contemplation took color and form in an inexpressible beauty that has 
never been surpassed. 

We know that the great centers of Byzantine icon-painting were the 
monasteries of Constantinople, Mt. Athos, Crete and Salonika and that the art 
flourished between the sixth and fourteenth centuries. The artist monks 
loved to represent Jesus as the divine King, the Pantokrator, seated on His 
throne. They seem to have had more attraction to the glorious than to the 
suffering Christ. They rarely represented Christ on the Cross and when they 
did it was in a less grimly dramatic way than in the West. Many icons, called 
Deisis, showed Jesus between the Holy Mother of God and St. John the Baptist. 
Often they showed the Mother of God with the Infant in her arms. Scenes in 
the life of the Mother of God were also favorite subjects, especially the 
Presentation in the Temple; the Annunciation; the Nativity and the Assumption 
(called the "Dormition" or "falling asleep"). 

All icon painting followed the Byzantine pattern, which was codified 
in a series of rigid rules of interpretation called the icon-painters' canon, 
from which it was considered sinful to depart. But in spite of this rigidity 
there was room for individuality to express itself in color and line as well 
as well in composition. Tradition never shackled the creativepower of the 
iconographer, though the personal element was more subtle than in other arts. 
No two icons were ever quite alike. This was noted long ago. The Russians, 
for instance, followed their Eyzantine masters in the art, observing the strict 
rules and disciplines prescribed. But in the Russian schools a new feature 
crept in. Faces, hands, feet, vestments were all rendered faithfully according 
to the canon. Nothing was abandoned to artistic fancy, yet a gentleness, a 
subdued tenderness and sacred joy came through somehow, to mellow in some 
degree the rigid Byzantine forms. 

In iconography every detail means something, every color, every 
gesture, the background, the position of the little Jesus in His Mother's arms, 
all are symbolic. This is a fascinating study in itself. We cannot, however, 
embark on it in the short space of an article. Anyone interested will find an 
explanation of many icons in a book called: "The Meaning of Icons" by two 
writers, one an iconographer himself, the other a specialist in the mystical 
theology of the Eastern Church (see Bibliography). 


How icons were made . 

There were many schools of icon-painting besides the Eyzantine and 
the Russian. All the countries of Eastern Europe had their own master-monks 
working at this sacred task, but the method seems to have been universal. 
We will try to describe briefly the very complex process by which these pre- 
cious treasures came - and still come - into being. 

Icons could be painted on a wall like frescoes. Many are done like 
this in the old churches and cathedrals of the East. But the generally accept- 
ed view is that an icon is movable, not fixed in one place, therefore it was 
usually painted or. wood. In ancient times it might be carved, or cast in 
bronze, or done in enamel or embroidered. But the most widely used method was 
painting. The dimensions varied from a few inches to several feet. Artists 
of these old days had to make their own paint, and these were fabricated by a 
process known as "tempera". The pigments were extracted from natural sources 
such as earth, minerals, chalk plants, etc. The process of pigment making was 
passed on from one generation of monks to the next. Our artists of the West, 
in the fourteenth century, also used tempera pigments, though later on, both 
in the East and the West, these gave way to oil painting for the most part. 
Later still, from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many of the old 
icons were embellished with gold and silver leaf and bedecked with jewels, 
pearls, glittering haloes and the like. This ornamentation was done by skil- 
ful craftsmen and added to the material valie of the icon, but the true value 
lay, not in these ornaments, but in the icon itself and its symbolic reality. 

Imagine you are an eleventh or twelfth century monk of the East and 
you are going to paint an icon. "Here is what you do:- 

First you select your wood. It must be of good quality, smooth, with 
no knots and airdried. Non-resinous woods or those with very little resin were 
chiefly used: poplar, birch, pine or cypress. Your selection is very important, 
both from the point of view of painting and of preservation. It should be one 
to one and a half inches thick. You may like to insert in the back two horizon- 
wooden struts to prevent warping or cracking. Now you can make a recess round 
the area where your painting will be. This has a threefold purpose. It serves 
as a frame, also as somewhere to rest you - hand while painting and further 
reduces the pcssiblity of the wood warping. You now very finely score the sur- 
face to be painted, cover the area with size and leave it to dry. You now have a 
base for the next process, the gluing of canvas or linen over the surface by way 
of an underlayer. Your ground is now prepared by several layers of fish glue 
and fine chalk. (Nowadays gelatine has replaced fish glue - smells better!). You 
may need as many as eight of these layers, each one being al]owed to dry com- 
pletely and any surplus chalk carefully wiped off. You should now have a well- 
prepared surface of uniform consistency, evenly white and smooth, free from 
cracks and with a matt finish. 

The drawing now begins. Nowadays this is done with pencil or brush, 
but as you belong to a bygone century, you will probably use charcoal. If you 
are copying from a previously made design, (not drawing " out of your head" frcm 
a well-known icon), you transfer the design from paper to your surface with tiny 
needlepoints. This is called "translation". It can be detected on a number of 
icons and immediately denotes a copy. Having obtained your outline, gilding is 
the next process, not painting. This is done first because the gold leaf tends 
to stick to the paint. This gilding is a delicate process, requiring great skill, 
At lastyou are ready to make your tempera paint. Mix an egg yolk well with an 


equal volume of water and add a few drops of vinegar as a preservative. This 
emulsion is now mixed with your powdered pigments. These would chiefly be earth 
tones: ochre, umber, sienna and green earth. You will only use artificial or 
brighter colors as supplements. These tempera pigments will dry rapidly and 
have a pale, lusterless appearance, so you cover your surface several times with 
even layers of paint, starting with darker lines to outline the contours and 
getting successively lighter. A great deal could be written about the painting 
process j building up the lights where needed and the positive and negative 
effects of one layer showing through another, creating a barely perceptible 
relief. The icon is not merely painted, but it is "modelled", as it were, 
according to traditional requirements. The entire process may take months or 
even years. 

After drying, you cover your entire painting with olipha, a kind of 
varnish made from boiled linseed oil and resin. This also requires skill. The 
purpose of this olipha is twofold: it protects your icon from damp, dirt and 
atmospheric changes- today we would add air pollution. Secondly, it saturates 
the pigments giving them relief and depth. It also unifies the colors, impart- 
ing to the icon a general warm, golden hue. On the other hand, centuries of 
burning lamps and incense smoke become absorbed by the olipha, darkening and 
eventually blackening the icon. Nevertheless, olipha is the best method of 
preserving an icon, no varnish can compare with it. Icons could be cleaned up 
to a point, in ancient times, by processes then known, but it is only in this 
century that new chemicals and new processes have been discovered that can 
effectively clean an old icon, bringing out the original strength and freshness 
of the colors. This has been a very important development in the science of 
iconography and it has served to restore to the world of art one of its greatest 
and forgotten styles. It has also served to awaken public interest in these 
treasures from the past, thus furthering that cult of the icon which we are 

witnessing today. 

Sr. Mary Dominic, O.P. 

Sr. Mary Elizabeth, O.P. 

Books used: C atholic Encyclopedia under Christian Art, Byzantine Art , 

The Ukranian Icon . 
Christ In Russia . 
The Meaning of Icons . 
Byzantine Daily Worship 








Lou is- Stanislaus-Henry-Marie Cormier 
was born in Orleans, France on the eighch 
of December, 1832, the second son of 
Marguerite-Felicite Bracquemond and 
Francois-Bernard Cormier. 

His father was a devout and labor- 
ious workman, whose sole happiness was in 
his silent and sedentary life. While the 
children were very young he died from 
burns he received when he fell carrying a 
light and some inflammable liquid. Madame 
Cormier was left to bring up the two small 
boys . 




Henry considered it a precious 
grace to have been born on the feast oi 
Our Lady's Immaculate Conception. He made 
his first Communion under the vigorous and 
saintly direction of the Vicar of St. Paul 
Father Meneger. This priest was never 
to laugh and spoke only of the great eternal truths of sin, hell and heaven, 
reception of this sacrament made a profound and lasting impression on the young 
The following day he was confirmed at the cathedral by Bishop Fayet. 

Eugene, the elder son, came rapidly to the ending of his career. He was 
profoundly pious and of a very energetic character. He entered the seminary, and 
at the age of 18 it was discovered that he had a tumor. When he was first informed 
that he was terminally ill he wept very much, but soon after he willingly and joy- 
fully offered the sacrifice of his life to God. 

Henry was almost always the first in his class and easily won the highest 
honors. Already he had thoughts of the religious life and played being a priest 
with some of the vestments of his late uncle. His mother was very happy about this, 
and later on, all her hopes were that he would take Eugene's place as a secular 
priest. He had a beautiful voice and was both a musician and an artist. He knew 
how to play the organ and later exercised this talent when he entered the Grand 
Seminary. After he entered the Order, while he was accompanying the Salve Regina 
at Santa Sabina, Franz Liszt was present and was in admiration at his playing. A 
passion for art under all its forms increased in him day after day and attained to 
an unheard of degree. The youthful artist in the exuberance of his age, expressed 
to a young friend one day: "I desire to go to Italy; it is the country of art, 
music and painting." 

In 1851 Henry Cormier entered the Grand Seminary where he felt the necessity 
of giving himself totally to God. He understood the division existing within himself 
between God and the world, and he resolved to change his life, aided by certain 
practices and a detailed rule that would facilitate punctual observance. From the 
very beginning he knew how to make efforts in his studies, and the resume of his 
notes in philosophy and scripture show care, order and method. He never worked or 
read without a pen in his hand. Day after day he progressed in the spiritual life 


and in learning, and it is at this time he began to write invocations to St. 
Dominic in his notes. 

While in the seminary he became strongly attracted to the religious life. 
With the help of his Sulpician director he consulted the great Lacordaire on the 
subject. The latter discouraged the young man with the advice that he had no 
Dominican vocation. This advice settled the matter for a time, but his need of 
dependence and thirst for immolation knew no rest. He consulted another Dominican, 
and his perfectly disinterested director did all in his power to assist the young 
man. Bishop Dupanloup was disappointed and gave his permission with great regret. 
As Henry made his obedience to the Bishop on his ordination day, May 17, 1855, 
tears rolled down the Bishop's cheeks. His hopes had been centered on this candi- 
date for his diocese. 

Henry had kept the news of his Dominican vocation from his mother until his 
ordination day. The blow was too much for her and all her strength failed. The 
long awaited day ended for her in tears. 

This was the time of the Order's restoration in France. Three convents had 
been founded at Nancy, Chalais and Flavigny. After a retreat of ten days Henry 
put on the habit on June 29, 1856 at Flavigny and he was given the name of 
Brother Hyacinth. Later in honor of Our Lady he added the name of Mary. As in 
the seminary, Henry showed himself capable of rare application. He was already a 
priest and he celebrated Mass with great fervor, clothing himself with Mary's 
dispositions as he mounted the altar. His priesthood marked him to the depths. 
God's presence enveloped him, and the greatness of his priestly soul was percep- 
tible to all. The sorrow of his mother did not disturb his determination or his 
deep abandonment to the good pleasure of God. 

The novitiate, a time of silence, is the time when the soul works intensely. 
It is the school of the observances where the will is made supple and the soul 
learns the disciplines of liberty which fix it towards the face of God. It is a 
time to renounce the seductions of the world, and the soul becomes strong in the 
accomplishment of works of justice. One studies the vows and discovers in this 
total subordination made with a free consent, the best way to glorify the Creator 
as well as the means to repair for past offenses. In his later book, Instruction 
for Novices , his best work taken from ancient manuscripts, Father Cormier would 
explain the reasons and the eternal truths that form principles for the Dominican 
observances and how the economy of grace is attached to their maintenance. In his 
novitiate a great fervor reigned in all hearts. 

In the Grand Seminary he had already claimed St. Dominic as the master of his 
interior. He exercised himself in becoming aware of the saint's presence and 
watched over it carefully. No doubt this fervor towards St. Dominic found its 
source in his fervent attachment to Mary. He had made a vow to center all his 
future apostolate around her mystery. It is conjectured that his attraction to 
the Dominican Order was because of its devotion to the Mother of God. Now his 
intimacy with St. Dominic was no longer by simple election but a strict obligation. 
How he must have progressed in it by this time! 

He always kept the Book of the Constitutions near him, as though unable to 
be separated from it. He constantly read, studied or meditated on some text. But 
all his resolutions and ideals could be summed up in the words to become a man 
of prayer. Prayer was never distinct from action with him; it animated, dominated, 
and became one with it, and this prayer was always nourished on sacred scripture. 


Suddenly one day a great and unforeseen trial came for Father Cormier. He 
began to cough up blood. Although the doctors were not too worried, the superiors 
were very concerned and considered this an obstacle to Henry's profession. Slowly, 
through his intercession with Mary, his fears abated and he regained his confidence. 
Did not Mary care for Jesus? She would also take care of him. The Master came 
on his visitation, and he desired Henry to take off the habit and try to regain 
his health for 2 or 3 years. This did not satisfy the Provincial or the Master 
of Novices who judged that they were in the presence of a mature vocation and 
any delay would be useless and a loss of time. So after much correspondence it 
was decided that Henry would go to Italy with the Master to a milder climate. 
This was another very great trial for his mother. At a time when it was not 
customary, Henry was allowed to make temporary vows. 

It was a great grace for him to travel with Father Jandel to Italy. A father- 
son relationship quickly developed and Henry learned much from the Master and from 
his methodical ways and great self-possession. 

The convent of Quercia where Lacordaire first stayed, was their first stop, 
then Rome where Father Cormier became the secretary of Father Jandel. His next 
appointment was Sub-Master of Novices at Santa Sabina, where Father Jandel had 
begun to restore the ancient observance. In his Life of Father Jandel , Father 
Cormier wrote of Santa Sabina: 

"It is useless to describe in detail what Santa Sabina was for the glorious 
Patriarch, Dominic. All that one sees speaks of him: the entrance where the 
angels accompanied him one dark night on his return from St. Sixtus , the church 
which was the witness of his prayers and penances, the stone on which he lay 
while saying, "My soul lies in the dust," the choir where he walked urging the 
brothers in the psalmody, the cell in which he passed one night in spiritual 
conversation with St. Francis of Assisi and the Blessed Angelo (religious of Mt . 
Carmel) , the Chapter room where he gave the habit to St. Hyacinth and Bl. Ceslaus, 
and close by the garden where with his own hands he planted the orange tree. 
Truly St. Dominic is in this place." 

The times had been very hard for the Order, with no Dominicans in Spain, 
and very few men present at the General Chapter. Piux IX stepped in and made 
Father Jandel Vicar General of the Order, and then he restored the title of 
Master General. Father Jandel 's chief concern was the restoration of the mid- 
night office and the fasts. Fifty men corresponded wholeheartedly to his plan, 
but later when he was in England he was summoned back to Rome because many 
influential voices were saying that he was asking too much. He wrote and 
explained to Pius and asked that they might have free opportunity for their 
generosity. Pius sent back the message saying that if results were hoped for, the 
Master should go gently. Father Jandel immediately withdrew, but the gentle 
prior, Father Besson restored the midnight office. 

As Sub-Novice Master, Father Cormier was obliged to render an account of 
each novice to the Master General. With a penetrating eye and indefatigable 
benevolence he corrected faults. In the name of Divine Mercy he loved to lean 
towards goodness. How little the novices knew that he was not even a fully 
professed member of the Order. This unforgettable day came on May 23, 1859 when 
he made his vows in the hands of Father Jandel. 


As head of the novices the young religious gave excellent example. He was 
attached to the holy observances and knew and understood their marvellous power. 
His judgment surpassed that of many of his contemporaries. He knew how to appre- 
ciate what the worship of God exacts and what profound adoration is, given an 
existence totally claimed by obedience and totally sanctified by immolation. An 
avid seeker of truth, he investigated the treasures of Dominican legislation, 
where he found always more abundantly a deep understanding of his vocation, that 
profound, intimate and mysterious sense that the books furnished but which was 
moreover a grace of choice given by St. Dominic to those who try to live more and 
more completely by his spirit and under the charm of his intimate presence. He 
never contented himself with merely studying the old texts. He prayed, reflected, 
meditated and insisted. With filial confidence he had recourse to his Father, 
St. Dominic, and he asked him to form his soul after his own, in order that he 
might be better able to form the hearts which were confided to him. In his 
correspondence we read: "... the spirit of St. Dominic. We should ask for it 
often. Just as we say COME HOLY SPIRIT, we should also say: Spirit of St. 
Dominic, spirit of truth, of sincerity, of modesty, of recollection, of exterior 
affability, of silence, of love for souls, come upon us." 

A man of silence and of prayer, Father Cormier insisted very much on the 
discipline of silence without which he would not have been a true Friar Preacher. 
"Our Order", he wrote, "makes it an honor to count silence among its most 
beautiful, most rigorous, and most holy observances; it is called pulchra 
caeremonia in the sense that it brings about the beauty of our different choral 
and monastic practices and protects their observance. It is said in the office of 
Blessed Henry Suso: 'He so kept the silence as the guardian of the ceremonies of 
religious life that he never broke it. ' It is a rigorous observance as can be 
judged by the way our Constitutions prescribe it and by the penances involved in 
its transgression. These transgressions are qualified as insolences: 'The 
insolences which they see ought to be referred to the superior. ' (Chapter of 1254) 

It is finally a venerable and very holy observance, because of its good 
influence on the progress of prayer, study and all the virtues. 'The most holy 
law of silence ought to be preserved with all vigilance and all earnestness... 
contributing much to conversion, peace and the desire for concord. . . (Chapter of 

The law comes often in the diverse recommendations of our chapters be- 
cause the experience of all ages and all countries show how easily it can be 
broken..." Father would go into detail, going through all the places of 
the monastery, showing the occasions when continual recollection may be wanting 
in order to put the brothers on guard against this danger. It was mostly the 
spirit of silence that he inculcated. 

"This spirit of silence ought to cast from us all desire to learn news 
from the outside, from the parlor or recreation, and make us mortify our curiosity 
relative to things even in the convent which have nothing to do with our duties. 
As for 'silence of discretion', no constitution can dispense from it nor even 
determine its practice. The best thing is to speak little to our neighbor and 
to say nothing to anyone which would sadden us if we were in his place." 

Father Cormier was sent to the Isle of Corsica in 1861 when the state took 
over Santa Sabina. As Master of Novices he suffered from the prior who wished 
immediate results and who did not believe Father Cormier had enough firmness with 
the religious and their caprices. He complained to Father Jandel, saying that 
the novices after two months had not even learned to sol fa the chant. Father 
Jandel visited the convent and grasped the situation, making Father Cormier prior 


of che convent. This convent was later to become a part of the Province of 

There were difficulties, temptations and defections, which Father Cormier 
blamed on himself, but he remained at his post. The rule was strict for the 
novices, but Father Jandel wrote telling him that it was not numbers that 
mattered and never to lose courage nor confidence in God in the midst of all 
these storms. This lesson was to remain with him the remainder of his reli- 
gious life. He was then 33 years old. 

The Province of Toulouse was then reconstructed and Father Jandel did not 
hesitate to send Father Cormier as Provincial. As there were only about 39 men 
in the whole province, he was called by the Pope, "my dear little Provincial." 
His health remained very poor. He was able now to visit Lyons and see his 
mother, which he did many times. He labored here for 4 years. St. Maximin and 
St. James in Paris had never attained such a degree of observance and maturity. 
He also restored the nuns of the Second Order to Prouille. 

At this time he wrote: "What is most important is application to the 
interior spirit. That is the whole religious man. In our days the influence 
of ideals which are in vogue tend to make us lose this spirit or discredit and 
falsify it. One cannot put too much care in acquiring a true esteem for it and 
to practice it seriously. Without it the exterior observances and the practices 
of piety would be only deceitful appearances. We would come to choir, listen 
to pious reading, celebrate the Divine Office, receive the Eucharist — but we 
would remain as before, frivolous, curious, susceptible, lax and an enemy of the 
cross of Our Lord. By application to the interior life our prayers will be those 
of a contemplative soul — that is to say we will pray with ease and our prayers 
will be enlightened, sustained, and not overdone. While appreciating the part 
of the affections, we will not neglect knowledge , an exact knowledge of Our Lord 
and His mysteries which constitute the basis of a solid spirituality, conformed 
to the doctrine of all our saints and to the motto of our Order — Truth." 

In 1872, Father Jandel rendered his soul to God, and Father Cormier succeeded 
Father Mas at Marseille for the next six years. 

In May of 1889 Madame Cormier died before seeing her son as she had ex- 
pected. Father was to have preached a retreat nearby. But before her 
death she repeated: "It is good to have a son a Dominican. He will always 
pray for me." She had gone all alone to Rome to bring back her son, but it 
was there that she had been finally able to make her sacrifice when she exper- 
ienced the charity of the Dominican Fathers. Father was able to embrace her 
on her death bed. She had been very devoted to the Rosary. Father took the 
trial with a supernatural joy compatible with the tears of those who will 
find in God those they love. 

Two Master Generals were elected before Father Cormier. He went to Rome 
with the next General as his socius, in 1889; then he was made Procurator 
General, a work of continual diplomacy between the Curia and the Order. In 
this capacity he had considerable influence at Rome. His modesty and firmness 
were appreciated by everyone. He knew how to treat the human element in the 
Curia, but far from distracting or troubling him, it only made him perceive 
even more the divinity of the church. He became the friend of Leo XIII and 
his visits to the Pope were a profound and intense joy for him through the 
spirit of faith which characterized all that he did. 


Here are some of Father's views on the theological virtue of faith: 

"Sometimes we are exposed to make an idol out of human progress and 
to put faith in the second place. Does moral progress, honesty, scorn for 
egoism and sensuality take first place in our modern society? It should be 
recognized that the Egyptian solitary has made more progress than us with 
his hut, his pitcher of water and his garden of herbs. He is master of his 
body and his soul, his thought, his time and his relationship with God. 

We are in danger when we do not give faith the sovereign role which 
appertains to it. We should not forget that this gift of God is exposed in 
our society to alterations, deviations, weaknesses. Faith has for its object 
the invisible and incomprehensible, while experimental gifts have for their 
object what can be seen, touched, and added to, and this is almost the whole 
reality and utilitarian side. The domain of faith is thus in a strange land, 
unattractive and where we do not breathe easily and acclimate ourselves to it 
with difficulty. The more faith is transmitted, interpreted, defended, the 
more it needs to be upheld by authority. And so the understanding of authority, 
its need and influence are held in small esteem. We are jealous of our 
independence. The conditions for faith are not favorable. Faith does not 
consist only in the adhesion to determined teachings, but there is that which 
we call the sense of faith, the spirit of faith, diffused in ideas and things, 
penetrating the social and family atmosphere in such a way that we breathe 
it without even noticing it with its vital principles and strong preservatives 
against contagion. On the contrary the atmosphere is saturated with morbid 

In this state of things, I see intelligent people, those in particular 
given to education, divided into three classes: 

The first, animated by a strong faith understand the injuries made to 
God and the damage done to souls by the weakening of the faith. But far 
from giving up and losing time in vain grieving or recrimination, they are 
able to draw energy in view of the evil to react. If the general atmosphere 
does not give them the air of faith, they form for themselves a supernatural 
atmosphere to resist the insidious attacks of incredulity. Remaining on the 
defensive does not suffice for them. They must have a conquering faith. Aided 
by grace they know how to find in the treasures of faith the remedies for the 
evil in response to modern aspirations which are regrettable because they lack 
a good guide. And so they show that they sincerely love their time, that they 
understand the present life as a path to eternity. 

The others have a clear understanding and submit sincerely to the reign 
of faith, but keep it in the compartment of their personal piety without any 
action on the exterior. They do not grasp its usefulness. As intellectuals 
they avoid openly proclaiming themselves on the side of the teaching authority 
above their studies, reasons and convictions. They are believers but not 

The third class who lose the firm and unconditional adhesion to revealed 
truths taught by the magisterium of the Church remain believers in name, in- 
stead of fixing themselves firmly on the rock. They have some pious instincts 
but they are weak and vacillating. They approach the sacraments from time to 
time but avoid essential questions. What a life they have, what piety, what 
action! But what a judgement of God and what an eternity. Sometimes they 
become impenitent. Sometimes they fall into aberrations, join cults and 
even become Buddists! 


To a friend he wrote: "What good our Order will do if it understands its 
vocation! Many Christians, enlightened by present evils have a hunger and 
thirst for justice. They wish a true and complete Catholicism, with its inter- 
iority, supernatural elevation, light and grace. In some of God's ministers they 
find only a superficial frivolous religion. In others they find some substance it 
is true, but it appears that these are too confused in the temporal order about 
what is the work of time and what is the work of God — what is an essential con- 
dition for good and what is only a useful auxiliary. If a Friar Preacher can be 
found dead to his own spirit, overflowing with charity for all, without partial- 
ity and capable of giving souls a clear, substantial, austere, simple, sure 
evangelical direction, with what eagerness people would rally around us and walk 
with us following the apostles and Our Lord! As for me, I dream of this future. 
I pray to our Father St. Dominic to make us worthy. Prayer has a great role in 
all this. The faithful should consider us above all as on the chair of truth. . . 
that we are men of the altar and it is from the sacrifice that we draw both 
truth and charity." 

At the General Chapter of 1904, Divine Providence, forever wise and admirable 
in all its ways, placed Father Cormier at the post which was most suitable for 
his valuable qualities and his merits. Before the election Pius X who had suc- 
ceeded Leo XIII on the Chair of Peter met with some Dominicans, and taking a 
serious tone which announced a pleasantry he said to them: "I have asked God to 
give you a General, a General. . . like this": and he drew his right hand to his 
jaws to make them crease, looking all the while with a severe expression 
contrasting with the habitual gentleness of his expression. "Have you understood," 
he said, 'a General like this?" And he repeated the same mimic. Here he made 
allusion to the thinness of the one who was his candidate. When he received the 
telegram telling of the election he said in a grave and slow voice: "Yes, truly 
good news, truly good < . . E an santo! I am overjoyed. Father Cormier wrote 
to a friend: "What are they thinking of — to elect an old man of ray age?" And 
God asked new efforts of this frail religious whose forces had been consumed by 
50 years of work. 

He wished to visit the entire Order, but it was too much for his old age. 
At least it was permitted for him to visit Europe. Care for the Glory of God, 
the salvation of souls and religious perfection vivified his government in the 
least details of administration. His goodness permitted him to be all to all 
and led souls to open themselves to him without difficulty. He worked without 
ceasing to bring souls to a fully supernatural life. He followed and stimulated 
them without ever going before God, or exacting more than grace. When he 
visited the provinces he excelled in minute inquiries which permitted him to 
judge the religious vitality in the community. His look was so gentle, but he 
seemed to scrutinize the depths of souls and made his interlocutor understand 
that is was useless to hold anything back. But he wished only to encourage and heal, 

He loved the novices, and their openness of heart consoled him greatly. 
To a novice he wrote these lines on compunction: ". . .Compunction of heart is 
a disposition little esteemed and cultivated in our days ... We aspire ardently 
to the ideal and elevate ourselves towards the heights, while we keep ourselves 
too distant from those regions where we should abase ourselves, groan under our 
miseries and ask pardon for our sins. The labors of study, insufficiently 
tempered by the influences of prayer, will soon dry up the soul ... In the 
measure that compunction purifies our intellect it becomes more enlightened. 
And we will draw from this light a more active love for God, a higher esteem 
for the oracles of Scripture and for the prescriptions of His holy law. Our 
religious law itself, with this torch in our hand, will appear more imposing, 
as being an echo, an extension, a more perfect application of the maxims of 


the evangelical law and the will of God. The strength that comes from 
compunction will give us two essential capacities, that of acting and that of 
suffering. We will know how to suffer in silence and with meekness, with peace 
and unction like Our Lord, and also with energy and constancy." 

The egoism of man afflicted and humiliated him. To him it was a tare which 
he deplored because he discovered there innumerable offenses against God. To 
a Novice Mistress he wrote: "Teach the novices not to be occupied with the 
"self". Teach them to renouce themselves, for all is in that! Be sure that 
they are upright. . . You should let souls go to the good God freely and let 
each one follow her own attraction. They should not be formed as if they were 
in the service, neither should you wish to make them all alike. . . " 

One day in speaking of those who did not persevere he said. "Blessed 
be the good God for these departures. It is a great thing to be able to 
discover these bad characters in the Novitiate, rather than after their vows 
when it is too late." 

Another time, speaking of the scarcity of religious education that is now 
given and the want of religious instruction in many subjects, he said: "Do 
not be discouraged, make the best of it. We cannot ask what we used to, but 
good will come out of it anyhow. It will take longer for these subjects to take 
on the true religious life." 

At all times he inculcated patience, and that is why he had an inexhaustible 
confidence in the goodness and omnipotence of God. 

Father Cormier loved to see the progress of the Order. This progress he 
attributed to its innumerable saints, and he had always at heart to favor their 
cult. He was consumed with zeal for his religious family. When a cause came 
to its completion his heart was filled with joy and he eagerly communicated the 
news to the entire Order. It seemed to him that each beatification was new 
life and new vigor for the Order. 

Father Cormier's religious physiognomy was that of recollection and 
continual union with God. "The motto of the Preachers" he said "expresses the 
essential law of their life — it asks them to contemplate and to give to others 
the fruit of their contemplation." And what is this contemplation? It is the 
knowledge of the intimacy of God with us and we with God. It is this reciprocal 
knowledge made more and more perfect which realizes between two beings the love 
which unites them. Between God and us it is charity which creates it — this 
ineffable dilection (that God testifies to us by the gift that He made of Himself 
in the person of His Son) but also it is the response of our love by the gift of 
ourself. What perfection this progress in contemplation reached in Father 
Cormier. His lights went beyond human prudence. By his prayer he remained 
closely united to Christ from Whom he drew his power over souls and the virtue 
of his words. Never was an occupation so urgent that it would make him omit his 
reading of Scripture, his meditation, his long and attentive recitation of the 
rosary, his spiritual reading or his visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lord 
had given him many natural gifts as well as those of grace, and he utilized them 
all in the service of God and for His praise. His look, his gesture, the least 
of his words were unlike any other saint. Often he is pictured with a Rosary in 
his hand. He said" I have a certain facility in prayer while saying the Rosary, 
thanks to the mysteries of the life of Our Lord and Mary whom I cherish so much, 
and by a special Providence of God, I am able to recite it also while occupied 
exteriorly. I find there a nourishment quite sufficient for my heart. I re- 
turn to the mysteries in one way or another, and I go toward Jesus and Mary with 
fervent affections, and so with God's help I am disposed to love Him always." 


No one was as simple as Father Cormier. For him simplicity was one of the 
forms of truth. Because of his great spirit, he was astonishingly simple. He 
loved to relate words because of the comparisons they furnished: "The true 
spiritual life does not consist a sentir (to feel) but a sortir, to go forth 
from self to give place to the spirit of Our Lord. If I could make a play on 
words I would say that to await is to attain. "A thing less perfect in itself," 
he said "becomes more perfect relatively, when everyone joins with a good will 
to do it, in such a way that more agreeable acts are made for God and are 
consoling for the sisters. Thus a piece of music which is less beautiful but 
sung with feeling and with ease by everyone, fatigues less and gives more to 
God, than a beautiful piece, which two or three sustain while killing themselves 
to do it, while the others drag along and perhaps complain." His knowledge and 
extraordinary musical taste rendered him capable of perfecting the role of the 
chant in religious communities. When he was present the organ never remained 
silent and his hand was the hand of a master. 

More than once Father Cormier gave his correspondents explanations on 
prayer. He exacted a continual application to it, saying that the interior life 
is never possible where there is a defect of continual recollection. "Contempla- 
tion is an act of the understanding and of the heart. . . The role of the heart 
in contemplation is summed up in two words: love and sacrifice." 

Our Dominican Sisters of diverse Congregations were the object of his 
careful solicitude. We ought to mention especially his relations with the 
Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor. He loved their work consecrated 
to the poor. He helped to establish their rule and the spirit of their touching 
apostolate. It was not rare to see the well known large black capes in the 
parlors of the Angelicum. It was the Little Sisters who had come to consult the 
Reverend Father. After he finished his generalate he wished to retire to the 
Province of Toulouse, but the desire to be useful to the Little Sisters had kept 
him in Rome. We admire in him this charitable attention among all his other 
great solicitudes.' The Reverend Father announced to the Little Sisters that 
a very aged Dominican, Father Colchen, would preach their retreat, so he said 
to them: "You should give him very simple things to eat, but very tender, since 
he has no teeth. . . And if you wish to please him serve him the desserts that 
you get from the hotels. He loves holy poverty so much that he will be content 
also if you send for him in your small carriage with the donkey." 

His exhortations for the interior life were adapted to the special work 
of hospitality done by the Little Sisters. A Cardinal said to them, "I congra- 
tulate you on having Father Cormier as an advisor. He brings peace to all he 
touches." He accomplished faithfully what he had written in The Retreat fo r 
Ecclesiastics : "For us travelers on this earth, peace is a mission that we must 
devote ourselves to as a peacemaker. . . The priest by his example alone, his 
conduct, the order that he puts in his actions, the expression on his face, the 
tone of his voice, penetrates souls by a secret virtue and puts unity among them. 
But this is not enough; by studying men and things he finds the causes which 
trouble peace, sow defiance, provoke discords, make the faithful fall into sin, 
hate or scorn, and uproots them to make place for essential religious practices. 
He will have prudence and await the right time with patience in the midst of 
humiliations, by a constant application to prayer, since the final success depends 
upon God who holds in His hands the hearts of all men." 

During his office the Angelicum, for which he had a special love, 
was to be realized, as well as a new impulse given to the universities of Fribourg, 
Jerusalem and Louvain. His health grew worse and he longed to retire, but Pius X 
would not hear of it and promised to help hira. 


Pius X was to die before Father Cormier and Father himself was to be 
present at the election of his successor, Father Thissling, in 1916. The 22nd 
of December of that year was to be one of special rejoicing for all the members 
of the Order, for it was the 7th centenary of the approbation of the Order by 
Honorius III, a day dear to the heart of every Dominican. Preparations were being 
made in all the Provinces for the occasion. 

At the beginning of the year 1916 Father Cormier's health gave way and 
he was obliged to stay in bed. He spoke little and scarcely responded, but 
one day when he was not even able to rise and say Mass, he asked for a pencil 
and to the great surprise of all, he wrote without any hesitation of spirit in 
a trembling hand, the plan of the work which was published some months later 
under the title of Disceptatio . These alert pressing words came from his very 
heart. He did not command, he did not exhort, but it was like his last advice. 
The Father described his own life when he traced the way for the existence of the 
Friar Preacher. 

"All exterior gifts," he said, "should be scorned by the preacher to give 
place to humility. Is he not sent to evangelize the poor? And so it is 
necessary to practice humility, to become little with the little, simple with 
the simple, ignorant with the ignorant in order to render all docile to God. 
Humility ought to be deeply rooted in the Preacher that he may not sacrilegiously 
steal the heavenly treasures of divine truth, by taking delight in his own glory. 
Our Order is a society destined principally for preaching. Its members, by this 
fact consecrate to this special ministry their time, their strength, their 
faculties and all their studies, to make them more apt to wield the two edged 
sword which is the Word of God. Some keep more assiduously to their monastic 
cell to scrutinize more attentively the eternal truths. By better understanding 
the dangers of contemporary errors which are opposed to these truths, they are 
able to refute them with greater eloquence. Others, inflamed with a more ardent 
zeal, consecrate themselves entirely to the missions with the unbelievers. Others 
again with a less expansive zeal, but no less useful, will sail like the clouds, 
(Is. 60:8) to explain in diverse places and with greater care these truths of 
salvation to the faithful of Christ. They will aid souls called to christian 
perfection, whether in the priesthood, the religious life or by preaching retreats 
... a work of apostolate, which among the works of zeal has a great importance." 

After the election of the new General Father Cormier retired to St. Clement's 
in Rome, the house of the Irish Dominicans. In November he again began to decline. 
In the midst of severe sufferings he never lost his patience, and with amiable and 
delicate goodness he responded to all who approached him. He was happy that the 
Salve was to be sung, but he protested about disturbing the General and everyone 
at the Angelicum. As his sufferings increased, the lucidity of his spirit 
remained complete. He spoke little but continued his prayer which was mostly 
the Rosary or meditation on the Passion. He had always had a great devotion to 
the Passion and had invoked St. Paul of the Cross for this precious grace. (He had 
loved and particularly exteemed the very flourishing and very fervent Congregation 
of the Passionists, and used to confide his resolutions for perfection to its 
General). He had written himself about the Rosary: 

"At the end of my life, when I am no longer able to 
give myself to exterior works, when it will be impossible for 
me to preach, to teach, to sing the psalms, I will say once 
more the Rosary, and if I cannot do that, at least I will 
hold it in my hands and before my eyes. It will be for me under 
various forms, my patience for suffering, my preparation for 
death ..." 


And the mysteries while passing under his eyes, united hira to the 
sufferings and immolation of Christ the Redeemer. Sometimes he murmured 
an invocation, "My God take me! My God have pity on me! My God I offer it 
to you." Or he said to someone present, "I have asked the good God to come 
quickly, but He does not wish it." 

After the Salve had been sung he renewed his vows in a clear voice and 
then with a trembling hand traced the sign of the cross on the foreheads of 
all present. Just before noon the agony began very calmly. Then at 12:30 
a light movement attracted attention. His arms opened like the priest at 
the altar and like the last gesture of St. Dominic. His eyes closed and 
he rendered his soul to God. It was the third Sunday of Advent, the day 
fixed for the solemn celebration of the Order. December 17, 1916. 

In his lifeless body people intuitively discerned the remains of a 
saint. On all sides they ran to announce this death that many might again 
receive the divine radiation of his beneficient contact. They touched 
medals and rosaries to his body, which remained supple. Miracles were 
wrought through his intercession. m s person revealed the holiness of God 
and the grandeur and beauty of the Dominican vocation. May the universal 
Church soon proclaim these words spoken by St. Pius X. "E un santo." 

Chis is a Sainfc! 


God, who Ivjubt given ua in 
Thy Servant, Hyacinth Mary a wonderful 
example o^ every virtue, especially o& 
humility, charity, zeal ^or tout*, and 
abandonment to Thy divine Will, grant 
we be-seech Thee., that imitating hit 
vixtucA and by hlti intercession, we 
may ove,n.come our passion* and sanctify 
our lives. 

And i& it be in accordance with 
Thy Will that thUx Thy Servant should 
be glorified by Thy Church, de+gn to 
manifest by heavenly favours the 
power he enjoy* in Thy bight, through 
our Lord Jesus, who with Thee 
tive-b and reign* in the unity o^ the 
Holy Spirit, world without end, Amen. 

Our Father, Hail Wary, Glory be 

Extracts from the books Le Rev . Pere Hyacinthe-Marie Cormier Sa Vie Intime 

Aubanel Freres , Editors, Le Pere Cormier By Tristan Mirbel, and Retraite 

Ecclesiastique by Fr. Cormier. . . c 

- 1 — ' Translated from the French by 

Sister Mary Regina, West Springfield 




The rushing wind howled fiercely through the trees, bending and twisting 
their shapes in all its fury. Lightning flashed through the night) illumined 
the ground, creating eerie shapes and grotesque shadows. Suddenly, a bolt 
ripped through a solitary tree, rigid and unbending amidst the chaos around it 
For a fleeting second it seemed to writhe with the crack of pain and then its 
lofty branches tumbled to the waiting earth with a noise muffled by the pre- 
vailing din. 

Upon a hill, overlooking a deep valley which held a prosperous city, stood 
a small forest of trees. Most of these were tall and stately letting their 
leafed branches touch the very heights of heaven. The very tallest were con- 
sidered the most blessed. These were able to see the distant mountains, but 
most especially, the city within the valley, and its gold building situated 
at the heart of all that bustled around it. If the sun was in the right 
position, it would gleam like a huge star on the horizon. It was in this gold 
building that the Lord of the Trees was believed to abide. Some trees disagreed 
with this theory, while others scoffed at the notion that there even was a 
Lord of the Trees. 

The morning sun had risen only a few hours ago, and the raindrops from the 
previous night's storm glistened like diamonds in myriad colors on the leaves. 
One tree was in dull pain and the ache within him throbbed with a consistent 
beat. He was in the middle of a bittersweet memory, while drops of rain fell 
off him like huge uncontrollable tears. 

"Why me?" he questioned himself. "I had a beautiful future before me. 
My limbs were becoming stronger every day and they were beginning to reach to 
the very heights. It would only have been another year before I would have 
been the tallest among my fellow trees. I would have been able to view all 
that stretches for miles around, and then, that glorious moment when I would 
behold the House of Gold wherein the Lord of the Trees resides." 

Changing his attitude, he countered: "The Lord no longer cares for me. 
Maybe the others are right; perhaps he doesn't exist after all." 

A stone's throw away stood an imposing tree - gnarled and wrinkled with 
great age and full of kindly wisdom. There was a fable among some of the 
trees that rhis old tree, filled with years uncounted, was born at the creation 
of the world and knew the Lord of the Trees by sight. The wizened old tree 
would only laugh. There was one legend, though, which circulated among them 
that he was destined for a special task before he died. When questioned on 
this he would only smile - a deep, knowing smile. 

"Master Olive, (for that was the old one's name) why me?" questioned the 
young tree in pain. 

"And why not you?" retorted Master Olive. 

"The Lord of the Trees, is not he the one who is to be our protector? I 
can only think now that he is the cause of my present misfortune." 

"Is he, my dear young friend? Were you not begging Master Lightning to 
strike you by remaining rigid when Mighty Wind was bending all your companions 
in safety?" 

"Yes," said the tree in a tiny weak voice, after some thought. Now he 
was ashamed of his stubborn pride. He felt like hiding from his wise friend, 
but the wise one continued: "It is all for a good and holy purpose." Then he 
became silent, lost in profound wonder, known only to him and the Lord of the 



In the distance the young tree could hear the laughter of two young 
children and the bellowing voice of their father, the owner of the wood, as 
they approached. It was the owner who had nurtured him when he was just a 
small seedling; making sure he received enough water when the season was too 
dry and digging around his roots to provide him with fresh soil for new nourish- 
ment. But it was the children whom he loved best. They came nearly everyday 
with their small lunches to spread a picnic supper beneath his boughs. He 
liked hiding their fair faces from the sun's scorching heat. The children 
would gleefully run round him in dizzy circles trying to catch each other at 
every turn. When they tired of their play, they would nestle close to his 
trunk and fall happily asleep. This is what he loved most for it gave him 
a feeling of happiness all inside. It was as if he were watching over them 
and protecting them from harm. 

The owner stood there frozen to the spot, his mouth ajar, at the sight 
before him. 

"Children, children!" cried the father, "Go no nearer that tree." Seeing 
the alarm on their father's face they stopped in their tracks, as he continued: 
"It has been damaged by lightning and I fear that the whole of it has been 
weakened by the force of that blow. It may be harmful to play near it." 

The owner came up to the tree and patted its trunk, as if he was losing 
a good friend. He shook his head and sadly walked away. 

Now the whisperings began between all the trees. They had all witnessed 
the distressing scene. They tried to keep their voices low, but the young 
tree knew they were talking about his failure. He was glad when Gentle Breeze 
stirred among them, so that he would not have to listen. Deep within himself, 
he knew what they really were discussing for he had seen it himself just re- 
cently. Hard-faced young men with axe in hand ready to make the final blow, 
all for their evil purpose. It was rumored that the flesh and blood of man 
mingled with the wood and sap of tree and both were doomed to an agonizing 
death. The young tree never heard all the details. These came moaning on 
the winds, and only the loftiest of trees could hear their mournful strains. 

His fearful ponderings were interrupted as he noticed the kindly ex- 
pression of Master Olive penetrating his very being with a look of deep com- 
passion and overwhelming love. Here, as always, was his source of solace and 
encouragement. The young tree spoke first and asked a question totally 
irrelevant to the proceedings of the trees above him. 

"Master Olive, why have you not attempted to be the tallest of trees? You 
have such great power within you. You certainly could have towered higher than 

"And what would I have gained by such ambition?" Master Olive asked. 

"Why, you would be able to see the House of Gold where the Lord of the 
Trees has his throne," replied the young tree astonished at such an answer. 

"And do you think the Lord of the Trees is pleased with your striving 
for a glimpse of His Gold House?" queried Master Olive. 

The young tree was really confused now and didn't know what or how to 
answer. He looked at his dear friend to answer for him. 

Master Olive continued: "It is only necessary to grow tall enough to 
look within yourself - deep inside, right into the heart of your being." 

The young tree asked very simply: "Is that where the Lord of the Trees 

Master Olive smiled and asked: "What do you think?" 

The young tree searched within himself, looking for some positive sign 
that, indeed, the Lord of the Trees lived deep within J no sign was evident. 

Master Olive said: "It sometimes takes years of patient waiting to find 
the one whom your heart seeks, but be glad, my friend, for the road for you is 


"Am I to die?" asked the young tree with almost a hint of resignation in 
his small voice. 

"Yes," said Master Olive in a voice so sweet and natural that the young 
tree wasn't frightened of the future prospect. 


The evening drew on and a full moon shone on the horizon. The young tree 
seemed strangely calm amidst all that had happened to him that day. There was 
a deep restfulness inside him, although not one of sleep. His companions were 
all giving in to the nightly repose, but he remained awake. Master Olive was 
also awake with a look of expectation upon his features. He almost looked like 
a tree which belonged to another world - a decidedly better world. 

It was near Midnight when a soft stirring of sandaled feet was heard on 
the pathway. The young tree recognized these few men. They had been here 
many a time to make their bed the earthen floor, under a sky blanketed with 
countless stars and a solitary moon. 

The Moon! How it shone tonight in a quiet splendor! What a transformation 
it worked on dear Master Olive! His wrinkled old trunk and gnarled branches 
took on an exquisite beauty. It was as if he had become ageless in its 
delicate light. His boughs seemed stretched toward the heavens in blessed 

A stately white-robed figure came near Master Olive and bent toward the 
earth. His whole being trembled in distress and words of anguish came forth 
from his lips. The young tree could not hear what he was saying. He thought 
this rightly so, that only Master Olive hear this poor man's plaintive cry. 

The man, exhausted of all strength, sank into a hollow of Master Olive's 
many scarred impressions. The young tree watched in deep reverence as his 
dear friend encircled this wearied person in the comfort of his leafy embrace. 

A disturbing band was heading up the path, rudely breaking into the 
solemnity of this precious moment. The white-robed figure moved toward the 
oncoming band. The young tree thought: "This is my hour, too. Finally, 
they have come for me." 

But the sound of shouting voices retreated as they led the white-robed 
man away and the young tree realized that his time had not yet arrived for 
the awful fate that awaited him. With all the tensions and excitement of 
that evening he finally rested in the arms of the waning night. 

Finally cock-crow, in a neighboring field, awoke him with a start. It 
was morning. Master Olive was still in the position which he had assumed the 
night before, as if the mysterious figure still reclined in his bosom. The 
stillness lasted only a few moments. Swift feet came with pronounced step 
along the path. At the head of the small and unusual procession was the owner 
of the wood, with slumber still in his eyes. Following, were fierce soldiers, 
wielding the dreaded axe. The young tree thought: "I need more time to think, 
to know..." Fear had grasped the root of his heart, where only hours before 
had been calm. 

With three deadly strokes the deed was accomplished. The young tree fell 
in a great heap of scorched branches and leaves toward his true friend » He lay 
at the base of one who could give him final counsel. 

The young tree was about to ask a question, but Master Olive spoke first, 
something he rarely did and only on very profound occasions. 

"Are you ready, my dear companion?" 

The young tree found his composure in the gentleness of this voice, and 
the fear of the previous moment was now replaced with confidence and total 
abandonment. "Yes, I AM ready!" 

Master Olive was pleased and said: "Then go to your destiny, Tree of Life!" 



The First Day of the week had dawned. Nature sang with the Rising Sun, 
which penetrated the very depths of the wood with its brilliance. This surely 
was a dav to rejoice, to be alive in the wonder of creation. 

A splash of Sunshine radiated around the place where the Tree ot Life had 
once stood. Nothing remained now of its form. Even the stump and root had 
mvsteriously disappeared, as if the Sun had swept it up in its warm grasp. 
But if one examined this spot carefully, one would see a little seedling just 
breaking through moist and rich soil. It wasn't unlike the first seedling 
that was nurtured there and brought to full life for a good and holy purpose. 

Master Olive gazed at the tiny sprig with a smile - a deep, knowing smile, 

Sister Violet Ann, O.P 
Syracuse, New York